Marketing

How to (not) lead change: a Step-by-step guide to royally screwing up strategic change

Post by
Max Korpinen
How to (not) lead change: a Step-by-step guide to royally screwing up strategic change

This article is a comprehensive guide for all the leaders who want to screw up their strategy implementation. Unless you want your company to succeed in the ever-changing market, we urge you to strictly follow these steps:

  1. Discuss strategic changes behind closed doors with your inner circle
  2. Select a competitor that has been performing well in your market, and copy-and-paste their strategy statement
  3. Upload your strategy document in the depths of your shared drive - and expect everyone to read it
  4. What additional skills does your company need to follow through with the strategy? No need for further analysis - you know the best
  5. Make an expensive hiring plan to get new talent from outside your organization - and get rid of the people who are no longer needed
  6. Expect the new employees to internalize your strategy and magically align their activities with it
  7. Be pleased that you now have an iron-solid plan that will survive any changes in the market or your competition

Let's dig a little deeper into each of the steps laid out. It is the time for (in)action!

Discuss strategic changes behind closed doors with your inner circle

Some leaders make the mistake of communicating a new company strategy clearly with all relevant stakeholders. It would be best to discuss the changes you aim to implement strictly behind closed doors at this stage. If you are too public about the company's new direction, everyone will know what you aim to achieve, leading to many problems down the road. Ideally, the new strategy is known only to a handful of your closest allies, preferably ones with poor leadership and communication skills, so that you can trust them to keep the knowledge to themselves. We wouldn't want anything to leak out before it is too late!

Select a competitor that has been performing well in your market, and copy-and-paste their strategy statement

As they say, the best artists steal, and the same holds in leadership as well. There is probably nothing unique in your company or product anyway. Hence, the best thing you can do is find someone who works for your high-performing competitor and learn everything you can about their strategy.

You're probably working in a market that is endless in size, so there is room for many, even with the same value proposition and positioning. The key here is to avoid all the unnecessary work: go with something that has already been proven to work!

Upload your strategy document to the depths of your shared drive - and expect everyone to read it

Now, you should have defined the strategic goals that would take your company to where you want to be in five years. The next step is to write those goals down on a document and bury it deep inside your shared drive. For improved effectiveness, you should use an outdated file format such as .doc. If you really want to shine, maybe keep the file on your hard drive so that only the toughest hackers you employ can find it. 

The key is to keep things easy for yourself. You can save valuable seconds from your workday by skipping the hassle of file-sharing and communication surrounding the strategic changes. There is another critical purpose for hiding the file. Your employee handbook states that you value "taking action" and "curiosity," so you'll know that whoever doesn't find the document isn't living your company values. That is a great driver for some essential personnel changes.

What additional skills does your company need to follow through with the strategy? You know the best!

A new direction often means that you'll need to adapt to the new requirements by up-skilling or re-skilling your employees. The executives generally know everything that is going on in their companies. Starting from daily water cooler topics and employees' weekend plans to their subordinates' hopes and dreams. Sure, employees might have hidden desires of learning some new skillset, but why ask when you can assume? 

Systematically gathering information about the skills you have in your company - and those that employees are passionately learning - might turn out to be a waste of time. That's why the smart thing to do is stand in your ivory tower and guess.

Make an expensive hiring plan to get new talent from outside your organization (and get rid of the people who are no longer relevant)

You've come a long way already! You have come up with a new strategy, you've written a document about it, and you know what additional skills you need to fulfill the things stated in that document. It is time to fire and hire! 

You'll have a good shortlist of employees who haven't been proactive enough by finding your strategy document, so that is the perfect place to start. A group email will save time and legal fees. Next, you should reach out to a couple of the biggest recruitment agencies in your field and task them with finding candidates who have the skills you seek. 

Recruitment would have to be its blog post, so to summarize: forget attitude, cultural fit, and learning abilities - these can all be learned later - and focus on the job-related skills. Skills are hard to come by, and it will take years for this online learning fad to become popular anyway.

Expect the new employees to internalize your strategy and magically align their activities with it

When you have finished hiring a group of talented individuals, you should prepare an impactful email to wish everyone welcome. In the email, you should remind that your employee handbook states "taking action" and "curiosity" as your core values (if it doesn't, add these values there! It will save you a lot of work at this stage). Emphasize that you will be evaluating everyone's work performance against these values. That will encourage proactivity and autonomy instead of bothering others with time-consuming questions or demanding training.

These actions should help you make sure that the employees will learn the ropes of their jobs and understand your strategy without additional work from your side, saving you a lot of time and money!

Be pleased that you now have an iron-solid strategy that will survive through thick and thin

As we know, a good plan is half the victory. When you have taken care in following the steps outlined here, you are on a path to dominating your industry. Your plan is now robust, and most likely, you now know everything about your unchanging market that there is to know. Now you can rest easy, pat yourself on the back, and trust that you have achieved what no leader in the history of leaders ever has - a plan that will live through times and survive through anything that is thrown against it. And even if your industry does go through some changes, you can always repeat the process: plan, fire, hire, profit!

We hope this guide serves as a reference on how to (not) implement strategic change.

For the lost souls who want to fight against the above tried and tested methods, some tools (such as Talbit) are available. But we won't guarantee grand strategic failures, and you should note the high probability for employee engagement, improved performance, and success.