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Preparing Your Organization for a Strategic Inflection Point

Obviously, the advent of a strategic inflection point is not under one's control. So what sort of actions does Grove recommend in order to ready the organization for such a massive change? First, says Grove, the CEO has to adopt and promote a "guardian" attitude:

The prime responsibility of a manager is to guard constantly against other people's attacks and to inculcate this guardian attitude in the people under his or her management.

So how can a CEO and other senior manager make sure that they are properly guarding against attacks? There are several ways:

  1. LISTEN TO ALARMISTS. Grove calls them "helpful Cassandras"—those folks who are always proclaiming that the sky is falling. They are often middle managers (for example, sales managers), who may be less focused on strategic issues, but are closer to the marketplace than most senior executives, and thus are in a better position to detect sea changes and paradigm shifts. Pay close attention to what they are saying, and encourage "Cassandra communications" from employees and managers the world over. Emails are a perfect medium for this kind of communication.

  2. ENCOURAGE RIGOROUS DISCUSSION AND DEBATE. Only by thrashing out the possible implications of what appears to be a strategic inflection point—a debate that should involve different managers at several levels—can an organization determine whether it is truly facing a 10x change.

  3. EXAMINE—AND BE SKEPTICAL ABOUT—THE DATA. There is often no substitute for cold, hard facts. But in making the call regarding a strategic inflection point, you may need to discount the data and put more faith in your instincts, since strategic inflection points are mostly about the future, which in all likelihood is not yet measurable.

There is a very definite progression of events involved in getting through a strategic inflection point, says Grove, who speaks from experience:

Getting through the strategic inflection point required enduring a period of confusion, experimentation, and chaos, followed by a period of single-minded determination to pursue a new direction toward an initially nebulous goal. It required listening to Cassandras, deliberately fostering debates and constantly articulating the new direction, at first tentatively but more clearly with each repetition.

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