business, leadership

Book review – MOVE

“MOVE” is a book by Patty Azzarello. It is essentially a leadership book focused on how to execute. Ostensibly it is related to executing on either a large-scale strategic plan or an organizational transformation (or both). But I believe much of the book is applicable for any major project that has at least a 6-12 month timeline from inception to completion/monitoring stage. That is because the book focuses on the “middle” which is the time between the excitement of the launch and the completion of the strategy/transformation/project (if you are lucky enough to get there). Ultimately the book tries to overcome the natural reaction of most people to any change initiative: “Are we still doing this?”

I found the practical advice to be incredibly appropriate, relevant and easy to understand. I’m not sure yet about ease f implementation since I’ve just completed the book and begun to apply it’s advice. But I know there are whole sections (small and large) that are directly on point for things me and my leadership team struggle with. So much so that I’ve pulled specific passages and sections for some of my leaders – and for me – to refer to and start really working on.

MOVE is an acronym for Middle, Organization, Valor, and Everyone. When discussing the Middle, Patty focuses on a few very practical tips that I know my team has really missed: Control points (key metrics) that drive the right actions, ensuring the team takes action, and assessing the stakeholder landscape. The most poignant and pervasive of these to me is control points. The discussion reminds me in some ways to the points in “Turn the Ship Around” – when everyone understands the RIGHT measures and outcomes, you can micromanage less and it’s easier to hold each other accountable. One of Patty’s key points is to measure outcomes, not activity, because sometimes we can show a lot of activity by simply not fixing root causes of issues. If you can send the time agreeing on key control points, you also save your team from collecting a bunch of data for other metrics that don’t really lead to action.

Organization is about the right structure, and the right people, and then motivating those people to the right actions. The most meaningful elements of this section to me revolved around:1) driving conversation at all levels, to get ground up buy in to strategies; and 2) making “status” meetings more meaningful by getting the tactical and tangible information out of the meeting and into a status document which is a pre-read for a much more robust conversation as a group about where we are struggling, where resources are needed, what we are wasting our time on, etc.

Valor is about having courage and persistence through the long middle. There were several areas that I thought were very applicable to my team and our push to achieve our strategic plan in the face of expanding scope and a highly competitive environment:

  • “Burn the ships at the beach” which means that we aren’t going back, and we can’t let our people revert to the way things were.” And the example provided was eerily on point for us, a software development example where the developers were used to not using process but where process was the key to success. Patty was relentless in forcing the engineers and developers to apply process, regardless of how simple the change or how laborious the process. There was no going back to the old way. Part of the keys to success are to guard those who defend the new way, don’t lose your spine when folks try to go around those people to you, and constantly communicate that you believe in this and this is the way things will be.
  • The importance of prioritization to allow for scale and growth. Find the few things that if you fail at them will cause failure at the larger level, and stick with those. Don’t be reactive, be proactive every day working to prioritize for your team.
  • Don’t get caught up in detail. Move detail down in the organization, never up. Leaders must let go of detail, just ensure you have well-defined control measures that you know are the right ones to drive action and results.
  • Always strive for clarity, by communicating simply and often – don’t let others fill in the gaps of your communication. Ask layers of question to clarify and ensure that everyone actually agrees with the strategy and will take actions that support the strategy.

Everyone is about communication, which leads to empowerment. Patty covers similar change management concepts that you may be familiar with, about communicating multiple times in multiple ways. Again clarity is covered, such that the conversation becomes part of the dialogue at all levels of the organization. She also covers the power of making things visible and using “fables” to extend the message, such as celebrating those who stand up for the new way, creating rituals, and holding contests. She also explains better ways to do to-down communication, like weekly updates (CONSISTENT weekly updates) and tools like blogs, along with ideas for structured communication when multiple groups are involved in a project – structure that may take a bit of time to set up but that can remove all sorts of other communications and provide for greater speed of execution. And she gives great advice on listening, and how to solicit input directly from a variety of sources and give people tools to provide feedback.

I would recommend MOVE to any leader, as I believe in this day and age we all have large-scale initiatives that require massive amounts of change management and fortitude to be successful.



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