14 Nov 2016 21:24 IST

Use the META framework to accelerate performance

Leaders can speed up organisational performance by mobilising, executing and transforming with agility

During my training programmes, consulting work and even while waiting at airports, I have asked many senior business leaders what’s occupying their minds the most, what is a key concern. It’s interesting that “acceleration” is what troubled most of them, some even saying it gave them sleepless nights!

We have been reading about changes in the marketplace and technology for a while now. The fourth industrial revolution, as “digital transformation” has come to be known as, is a key factor but, as leaders understand it, acceleration is much more than just going digital or embracing the latest in technology.

You can sense that acceleration impacts everything you do. As it turns out, the more advanced and industrialised the economy, the faster the country’s growth. Western Europe and Japan hurried and scurried, while Africa and Latin America dawdled and lazed. Within the United States, the East Coast was faster, the West Coast followed, while the heartland ambled behind at a fair pace. A psychologist from the UK partnered with the British Council to study the speed of life. What they found was very insightful — worldwide, people are covering the same stretch of distance in 10 per cent less time.

Real sense of urgency

As life picks up speed and momentum, our patience seems to wane. In 1999, websites were losing one-third of their traffic if they took eight seconds to load. By 2006, it shrunk to four seconds. Now, I hear that Google puts websites on notice if they take more than two seconds to load! Acceleration, therefore, is here to stay!

As leaders, the questions before us, therefore, are: are we ready to accelerate and take our teams along as well?

Acceleration requires that leaders mobilise their people and drive home the inevitable sense of urgency. But leaders have to understand that acceleration calls for a true sense of urgency and not a false one — where people rush as headless chickens, jump from meeting to meeting, and from one presentation to the other, thus burning themselves out, often without significant or productive results.

The META framework

Global consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles (H&S) has done some cutting-edge and pioneering work in acceleration. They studied almost half of the world’s largest companies across industries, sectors and geographies. They identified what they call “super accelerators” based on their performance over several years and found that these companies followed the META framework: they mobilised, executed, transformed, and did all this with agility! H&S listed the following key competencies for leaders if they are to push their organisations to accelerate:

Ripple Intelligence: This refers to the ability to keep abreast of the inter-dependent changes happening in the world, in the industry and within own organisations, and understand how they will play out.

Resource fluidity: This is the skill of being able to constantly adjust the allocation of talent, resources and ideas to the most important challenges.

Dissolving paradox: By this is meant the ability to see past simplistic choices and recast difficult decisions in ways that result in transformative, win-win outcomes.

Liquid leadership: This means being able to operate, whether through hierarchic or other channels, to mobilise action and share information in the quickest and most appropriate way.

Therefore, leaders with the above competencies take the META route to accelerate the performance of their teams and organisations. Therefore they:

~~ mobilise and inspire aligned actions based on a compelling purpose and a simple set of strategic priorities

~~ execute by fully harnessing and streamlining resources to consistently deliver excellence in the core business

~~ transform by experimenting and innovating to create new growth engines and reinvent existing businesses ahead of the market, and finally

~~ they do so with agility, which means that they spot opportunities and threats, adapt and pivot at a faster pace than competitors, to create and sustain the competitive advantage.

In a nutshell, the agenda for future leaders is reasonably clear: enhance their ability to accelerate the performance of the organisation. They do so by accelerating their own competencies and leverage the META framework to do so.