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Rapid Realignment: Proven Strategies for Unbeatable Performance

Rapid Realignment: Proven Strategies for Unbeatable Performance

(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dr. George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, the
co-authors of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance.)

When Admiral Vern Clark became Chief of Naval Operations in 2001, he made our previous book, The Power of Alignment, required reading for all the admirals in the Navy. He did so because he could sense there was enormous misalignment in his organization that was costing his service in terms of performance and money. “Things were broken in ways that nobody knew,” he explained. “The Navy was hollowing out. It was my sense.” He told us, “that if we were a public company, we’d have been in Chapter 11.”

In support of his focus on alignment, we pointed out that there is over thirty years of empirical research that shows aligned organizations outperform their nearest competitors by every major financial measure. He surprised us, however, when he said, “that may be true, but the main reason I made alignment my number one goal wasn’t financial. It was because in my business, second place is a terminal disease.” At that moment we learned why the imperative to align is so great in military and government organizations: because the price of misalignment is so high.

But military and government organizations offer unique challenges to leaders charged with rapidly realigning them to meet ongoing challenges. Government functions are usually supply driven, and operating units are often insular and bureaucratic. Their focus is on spending budgets and on activities versus customer-related performance metrics. Also the scale of these organizations is often very large and the timeframe required for realignment is often very short.

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We spent years measuring the state of alignment within major military and government organizations and working with senior leaders to improve it, often with dramatic results. The lessons we’ve learned from military and government leaders who successfully realigned their organizations are contained, with others, in our new book Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance (McGraw Hill 2012).

    In each case, we’ve learned something new and valuable. We’ve learned for example, that leaders can create alignment by measuring alignment. And when leaders are provided information that informs action, leaders can take focused action that yields more immediate results.

    For example, one of those capable leaders was Vice Admiral Phil Balisle, head of the Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA. NAVSEA is a huge enterprise with over 54,000 people and a budget of more than $20 billion dollars. It is responsible for the technical and engineering support and long-term maintenance of the surface fleet and submarines.

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    VADM Balisle took command in at a time when the Navy’s brass felt that NAVSEA needed to revolutionize its procedures, streamline operations, and break away from the perception that it was dedicated to the status quo. He knew that the Navy’s usual three-year command cycle would make implementing long-term change difficult. Could he get it all done in three years?

    Adding to the challenge was the fact that the majority of his work force was civilian, not military. Most had been doing their jobs for years and had developed an entrenched way of doing things that had made them resistant to change — rapid change in particular.

    In taking on his task, Balisle adopted what we call a Slow-Faster-Faster approach: taking his time (up to six months), initially to listen, learn, gather data, and plan; speed up with a set of ambitious initiatives; and, finally, going all out to engage the workforce in enduring change, assessing alignment at each stage.

    Each initiative adopted what Balisle’s teams would call the “Hundred Day March.” One hundred days to align and transform long-established practices seemed daunting, but Balisle felt that the foundation of change had to be laid down quickly. The first 30 days of each “march” would be devoted to defining the problem and objective. What needed fixing, and how could they fix it? For each initiative the remaining 70 days would be devoted to implementation. By the end of the hundred days, the goal was to have new and aligned structures in place.

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    The balance of Balisle’s years in command was devoted to making those new structures enduring, and to engaging the workforce — from top to bottom — in the new way of operating. Gaining buy-in was an important challenge for each team. It required an aggressive communication plan that would reach every sailor and civilian employee with a consistent message over time. As in every other successful example of rapid realignment, message consistency and repetition was required to sustain the alignment initiative. Measurement was also essential. Balisle and his team used our web-based alignment assessment tool each year to measure how people were responding to changes and to identify barriers to further progress.

    As challenging as the NAVSEA project was, and as taxing as its hundred-day marches were for people, it worked. As Phil Balisle told us:

    “We saw results very quickly — money savings and improved efficiencies. We were doing jobs with less people, were cleaning up work areas so people felt better about their work and the organization of it. We could see tangible things that were very important to where we had to go. We also received recognition of progress in the Federal Government’s 2005 survey of Best Places to Work, which showed significant improvement in NAVSEA’S across-the-board scores and a rating well above Navy and Department of Defense averages. These results, which included ranking No. 1 in effective leadership among U.S. Navy organizations, were an especially notable achievement given the amount of change we imposed on the workforce.”

    These scores were gratifying, as NAVSEA had consistently ranked low in the Department of Defense survey prior to Balisle’s command.

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    VADM Balisle’s experience, and that of other military/government leaders we have worked with, proves that no matter how challenging the environment, with focused leadership action rapid realignment can be achieved.

    Dr. George H. Labovitz, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is the founder and CEO of ODI, an international management training and consulting company, and professor of management and organizational behavior at the Boston University Graduate School of Management.

    Victor Rosansky, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is co-founder and president of LHR International, Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, helping Fortune 500 clients to drive rapid strategy deployment and alignment.

    (Photo credit: Business Chart showing positive growth via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on June 13, 2019

    15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

    15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

    Knowledge is power, and you’re going to need a lot of it if you’re going to be able to steer your business to success.

    Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 best entrepreneurs books to get inspirations about success and grow your business.

    1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

      This book has been dubbed the Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature, and it was actually the first book that gave a prescription of what it takes to be a winner.

      Napoleon Hill draws from the stories of millionaires like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison to illustrate the principles he put forth.

      Get the book here!

      2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

        A lot of startups end up failing, but many of these failures are actually avoidable. The Lean Startup provides a different approach that is now being adopted all over the world and changing the way that companies are developed and products are being launched.

        In The Lean Startup, Eric Reis describes what is required for a company to penetrate the fog of uncertainty in order to discover a path to a sustainable and successful business.

        Get the book here!

        3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

          In a revised edition of the 150,000-copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber refutes some of the myths that surround starting your own business and shows just how commonplace assumptions can end up getting in the way of being able to run a successful business.

          Gerber succeeds in walking the reader through the steps that occur in the life of a business, from infancy, through the pains of growing as an adolescent, to the perspective of the mature entrepreneur.

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          Get the book here!

          4. Rework by Jason Fried

            Most of the business books that you get today will give you the same advice: draft a business plan, study the competition, look for investors, and all that.

            However, Rework shows you a more effective, easier and faster means of succeeding when running a business. By reading it, you’ll be able to know why some plans are harmful, why you don’t really need to get investors, and why you’re better of shutting out your competition.

            Get the book here!

            5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

              This is one of the most successful motivational books in history, selling well over 15 million copies since it was released in 1936. The book is timeless, and it appeals to businesses, self-help startups, and general readers.

              Carnegie believes that a lot of successes come from an ability to communicate rather than having brilliant insights. In his book, he teaches how to value others and make them feel appreciated and loved.

              Get the book here!

              6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

                Through this amazing book, Malcolm Gladwell is able to take the reader on an intellectual journey through the world of ‘outliers’. He asks the question of what truly differentiates high-achievers.

                His answer to this question is that we tend to pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and less attention to where they are actually from.

                Get the book here!

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                7. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

                  This is the best personal finance book ever written. It tells the story of Kiyosaki and his two fathers; his real father, and that of his best friend (his rich dad), as well as how the two men helped him shape his opinions on money and investing.

                  It refutes the myth that you need to earn high to become rich, and it distinguishes between working for money and having money work for you.

                  Get the book here!

                  8. The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

                    Niall Ferguson, in this book, follows the money to tell the story behind the evolution of the word’s financial system, from the beginning way back in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest occurrences in what he had dubbed Planet Finance.

                    Fergusson also reveals financial history as the backstory behind our very own history, with an argument that the evolution of debt and credit is as significant as the history of technological innovation and the rise of civilization.

                    Get the book here!

                    9. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

                      Michael Lewis landed a job at Salomon Brothers after getting out of the London School of Economics and Princeton within three years, he had risen to the rank of bond salesman, making millions for the firm and cashing out steadily.

                      Liar’s Poker is the amalgamation of these years — a look behind the scenes at one of the most turbulent times in American business. His book is Lewis’s account of an era where greed and gluttony were the order of the day.

                      Get the book here!

                      10. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Michael H. Pink

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                        A lot of people see money as the best motivator. Michael pink says it’s a mistake.

                        In this provocative book, he asserts that the secret to high performance anywhere is the need to direct our lives, to learn and create, and to do better by our world and ourselves.

                        Get the book here!

                        11. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

                          Outdated methods don’t work in today’s world. In this book, Allen shares some awesome methods for stress-free performance that he has shared with thousands of people all over the world.

                          His premise? That productivity is proportional to your ability to relax.

                          Get the book here!

                          12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

                            In this book, Stephen Covey presents a holistic approach for overcoming both professional and personal issues. With insights and anecdotes, Covey presents a way to live with integrity fairness, service and dignity.

                            Get the book here!

                            13. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss

                              In this book, Ferriss dishes on the tips he has learned from studying the New Rich, a subculture of people who did away with the deferred life plan and mastered time and mobility to developed luxury lifestyles for themselves.

                              If you’re looking to make your way in this revolutionary new world, this here is your compass.

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                              Get the book here!

                              14. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

                                The CEO of Zappos shows how a unique kind of corporate identity can help deliver a huge difference in the way results are being achieved — by creating a company that values and delivers happiness.

                                Get the book here!

                                15. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

                                  From Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records and V2 to Virgin Cola, Virgin Megastores and a wide array of other companies, Richard Branson is the rockstar billionaire that a lot of us want to be.

                                  Branson, however, did business by following a simple philosophy:

                                  “Oh, screw it, let’s do it”

                                  Losing My Virginity is an unusual, borderline outrageous autobiography of one of the greatest business geniuses in the world. Branson and his friends named their business “Virgin” because that was what they were — virgins at the game.

                                  Since then, he’s written his success rules, creating a global business that has no headquarters, no management structure no corporate identity as it were.

                                  Get the book here!

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                                  Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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