Accelerating Performance: A book review by Bob Morris

Accelerating Performance: How Organizations Can Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility
Colin Price and Sharon Toye
John Wiley & Sons (January 2017)

How and why individuals as well as organizations make progress happen, despite their many flaws

Much has been said and written about organizational agility in recent years, a quality that can be of substantial benefit to individuals as well as to organizations. Like other core competencies, it can — and indeed should — be nourished at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. The global marketplace today is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember. The title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s recent books suggests that “what got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, I am convinced that what got you here won’t even let you remain here, wherever and whatever “here” and “there” may be. So, what to do and how to do it to succeed?

Colin Price and Sharon Toye focus on how to “increase the metabolic rate of [an] organization through a process that lets [it] increase speed, but only in certain times, designed for maximum effect.” They devised an acronym for this approach, META: Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility. Here’s the formula: M+E+T+A = Acceleration. More specifically:

Mobilize: “Inspire aligned action based on a compelling purpose and a simple set of strategic priorities.”
Execute: “Fully harness and streamline resources to consistently deliver excellence in the core business.”
Transform: “Experiment and innovate to create new growth engines and to reinvent existing businesses ahead of the market.”
Agility: “Spot opportune ties and threats; adapt and pivot at a faster pace than competitors to create competitive advantage.”

Price and Toye provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in almost any organization to complete the META process, thereby enabling their organization to gain, strengthen, and thereby sustain a competitive advantage.

Some of the most valuable material is provided in Chapter 17 as they discuss what they call “liquid leadership” and the skills set it requires:

o Become a techie: “You may not be technologically savvy, but you must get to know the role that technology plays in the evolution of your business — and beyond IT, social media, web sites, apps, and so on.”

o Be entrepreneurial: “The fiercely competitive marketplace has made it mandatory for leaders to be more entrepreneurial, connect the dots of opportunity, and find nontraditional ways for their business to grow and prosper.”

o Be a thought leader: “Today’s leaders must be bold, articulate, and courageous visionaries who are not afraid to speak upend change the conversation or introduce new ideas and ideals.”

o Allow the right autonomy in your workforce: “To avoid getting bogged down in bureaucracy, it is vital to allow your employees to make certain judgments for themselves.”

o Evolve with your business: “Changes in the natural evolution of a company’s business model now demand that its leaders serve as change agents to lift and lead the entire company.”

o Touch the business as much as you lead it: “Leaders can never forget about the customers and must never grow complacent about understanding their changing needs and demands.”

o Prepare to manage crises: “Don’t let your corporate challenges become headlines. Leaders must be prepared to handle any crisis with agility and elegant transparency.”

Such leaders “pull toward them people who not only work directly for them but whom they influence by the quality of their ideas and leadership.” All of this is discussed in greater depth on Pages 265-267.

Colin Price and Sharon Toye then review seven “lessons” [that] serve as “a reasonable summary” of the key insights in their book. They also remind their reader that there must be constant, relentless follow through when driving change. Moreover, it is imperative to “revisit the acceleration issue again. And again. And again. Remember, the jungle always grows back.”

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