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Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership

“Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.”

Peter Drucker

Starting with a vision, leaders set the goals- the What “or the right things to do”. This is the expression of business Intent set by a leader, setting the stage for management to come in and do it right. In principle, this should be easy except for one small issue- “it” is rarely clearly defined, communicated, understood, agreed-upon and static.
(Original)Intent does not guarantee (original) Impact.
A problem when left unresolved causes a lot of pain in the long run. To be fair, with the imperfect information available at any given point in time, leaders constantly pivot the What. Intent and expression of intent therefore is loosely coupled in most business situations. The divergence starts here and continues as we go further down the execution process in a hierarchical structures or matrixed networks.
Solving for “it”
At the executional level, a successful leader (or manager) is able to tie Intent to Impact by designing a set of activities. Examples of activities include market research, customer discovery, value proposition or PR writing etc. in product management; product launch, message building, campaign planning, events execution etc. in product marketing; design, build, release in engineering; and so on across disciplines. Most managers competently set the goals for these activities, are able to define the impact and measure progress without too much difficulty. Challenges arise in circumstances where there is a shortage of resources, lack of motivation/skill or rapidly changing marketplace with ever moving goalposts.
It” is an Activitythat takes in an Input of resources (time, money and/or effort), applies the skills of the individual available using a process that is afforded by the organization to generate an Output. Although there are several models for organizations, in my experience- this particular one is helpful to have a productive conversation on the workings of the organization than off-the-cuff remarks made by most leaders. This model is simple, intuitive and difficult to sidestep using superior communication strategies (which we will not go into at this time). An activity is a Blackbox taking in resources and generating an output. As a manager, your employees are the engine held together by the process you define to operate your function.

Note the absence of Intent and Impact from this model. This is purely an operational model which enables managers and ICs to have meaningful conversations. Just using these four items inputs (resources allocated), process available, skills possessed and the output generated we can define efficiency of the operation. Some older OM textbooks alluded to this model- but the separation of inputs, processes and skills helps managers make decisions on the organization and the team. At a minimum, have honest and open conversations on delivery or retrospectives without bringing in emotions.
Efficiency = Outputs ÷ Inputs
“Are you operating efficiently?” This question is now easy to answer at an activity or a group of activity level. Efficiency is a ratio of the sum of all outputs to the sum of all inputs. This definition helps a manager have productive conversations with ICs, peers or executives. Ensuring that the conversation is firmly anchored in data is easier than opinions or expectation-divergences. Note the elements that affect efficiency are the inputs, the process followed/used/afforded by the organization, the skill of the employee and the output. As a technical measure, it is not unreasonable to expect the next round of work will be more efficient. Improved skill or higher skill level requires less inputs to generate the output. Availability of tools and systems (Process) also can help improve efficiency. Capacity decisions and conversations are easier; so are development and improvement. HR professionals stay away from these types of model but in my experience, they helped isolate issues, plan activities, predict risks and have a mitigation plan.
Effectiveness = Impact ÷ Output
Output does not ensure impact. A highly efficient person or team may be excellent in converting inputs into outputs but if the outputs do not deliver the expected impact we hear statements like “PM or Marketing is not effective” casually thrown at QBRs at large and small companies. Arguments such as “But we built what you/the customer/the CS team asked” does not help in the conversation on connecting output to impact. This is where effectiveness comes in. In any business function, we can have elaborate conversations on ROI but if we do not understand “paint done” as Brene Brown puts it, we risk a disconnect between output and impact.
Overcoming the limitations of the traditional RYG – Wrong output, inflated expectation or incomplete connection to impact; the definition of effectiveness, can surface a lack of understanding, communication, estimation or completeness towards impact. Effectiveness, like efficiency can be precisely defined as impact delivered by every item of output. This has proven to be quite insightful in the next planning iteration where a clear prioritization of output can be done with an emphasis on the corresponding impact.
Efficacy = F { Budgeted ( Inputs, Activities, Outputs ) , Forecast Impact }
Over the course of my career, generic intent is abundant, specific intent has been rare. Even rarer is the connecting intent to outcomes. The mushrooming of OKR SaaS businesses is a living testament to this observation. Although efficiency and effectiveness capture the performance aspects of the activities, the core starting point- the Intent and its corollary Impact is often left implicit in business planning. Organizations and management need a connective concept to tie in strategy to execution via a measurement and evaluation tool. To that end, we define Efficacy as the objective relationship between intent and impact. This measure gives us an idea of how well an organization (or its management) can connect intent to impact through the choice of activities, allocated resources, expected outputs and forecast impact of the outputs. In my experience, this is the best reflection of the quality of leadership rather than the capability of the organization or the execution. Writing the relationship helps evaluate the progress and during postmortem.
In defining these commonly occurring terms, managers and executives can look at the entire operations from intent to impact.
The three E’s have been a great tool to have conversations across teams, with management and with the team to identify challenges, overcome obstacles and set realistic expectations on performance of activities in product and marketing teams. There is no reason to assume that these are the only mechanisms nor will they be limited to these disciplines- merely these worked in my experience. This is a model that will continue to be refined and adapted through feedback from readers like you.
As a business leader, we need tools to have conversations with our board, executives, HR and the organization in order to operate various functions. Executives expect strategy, capacity, capability and progress conversations; HR focus on sourcing, development, culture and retention; and employees expect career development, growth and performance conversations. This model helps with the following challenges

  • Think the function through completely: As a business leader, translating intent to impact through the choice of strategy is the beginning of the leadership process. Budget resources, skills and processes enabled by tools help define, schedule and prioritize activities. The plan is truly complete when the entire picture is filled in. Assumptions boil up to the surface and risks can be mitigated as they arise. As a bonus, you can experiment small and scale quickly.
  • Inspect the activities, output and resource allocation: Deviations from target can be a lot more granular. With a higher precision to identify deviations; gaming the plan becomes difficult and self-deception is easily identified. Instead of relying on lagging indicators, managers can proactively inspect operations with various filters.
  • Inspect skill : The toughest challenge is to evaluate and ensure employee skill is employed as close to flow as possible. At an activity level for each employee, it becomes possible to inspect skill and development if necessary.
  • Forecast and adjust for impact : Keeping intent constant, strategy, output and impact can be better forecast independent of personalities and individual feelings. Everyone always “knew it” but acting on it is easier earlier in the process.

Over the course of our digital journey, we have come to rely on technology to help plan, track, operate and simplify our lives. With the proliferation of tools beyond basic email, calendar, messaging, to workspaces customized to functions- SFDC for sales; Teams, Slack, Workspace and WebEx for collaboration etc; the tasks performed by professionals is constantly growing. To top that, these SaaS tools change inexplicably leading to productivity hits.
We need tools and technologies to help find, use and complete a growing number of tasks. Having a model to help with the business definitely makes operations easier. We would love to hear your approaches and ways to improve people, process and technology in defining the future of work while we bring learnings from organizations across the world orchestrating massive transformations.

Technology Enablers
Improving efficiency, efficacy and impact gets easier with tools. One of the easiest factors to change is the output- which had an impact on all the three vectors of transformation. In addition to leveraging function specific productivity enhancers, transformational leaders can rollout inherently best practice processes and induce higher levels of skills that get work done faster. Improving the quality and quantity of output therefore can drastically enhance impact in your organizations.

Talk to us to learn how technology can help your users improve the impact of their activities by adopting purpose-built technologies.

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