I recently came across an enlightening post by Dharmesh Shah titled ‘What Elon Musk Taught Me About Growing A Business’. He had quoted Musk,
“Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.” - Elon Musk
This powerful quote inspired me on a journey of introspection (fueled by my secret love of algebra). Who is typically responsible for ensuring this vector alignment and the maximum positive impact on transformations? The natural response would be the C-Suite and others in leadership roles. Are there additional ways of achieving this vector alignment? What strategies could work in various situations?
There are many ingredients in the secret sauce that makes transformations a success. One of the common themes I’ve noticed is the presence of ‘nomadic trusted partners’. These are individuals that work organically to align the vectors in your organization and help them maximize their impact, without any authority or designated leadership roles. Based on my experience supporting over twenty business and digital transformations, I’ve found that these nomads play an important part regardless of their hierarchy within the organization.
The value proposition of a nomadic trusted partner is the innate ability to create personal trust and respect with people at various levels across many teams. These ‘nosy’ individuals show genuine interest in other people’s problems. They have a natural tendency to seek out trends, hold multiple perspectives and bridge the right people together with the right information. This highlights blind-spots and opportunities necessary for the overall success of their organization. They see things that fall through the cracks and call out risks before they become costly issues. These are the people who work to elevate others and inspire them to think differently, enabling innovation at the grass-root levels.
This type of bottom-up innovation is especially important in organizations with operational silos, where the teams may not have enough opportunities to cross-breed ideas outside of their job role’s perceived sphere of influence. When beginning a new transformation initiative, leaders should challenge these boundaries and enable agility. Transformations often struggle with communication gaps worsened by the lack of a common terminology, unchecked assumptions, biases, expectations and constraints that the teams may have acquired over time. These act as a form of learned helplessness and are typically invisible until an issue arises and even then, the root cause may remain elusive.
A common issue I come across is a team’s inability to scale, after the successful completion of a pilot with a positive impact. The specific root causes for failure to scale are often unclear and lead the teams to form a number of assumptions. Teams usually find themselves in a deadlock situation without a clear path to test these theories despite the presence of many necessary tangible ingredients, such as skills availability and financial support. A nomadic trusted partner can be the horizontal and vertical change agent across teams and hierarchy. (S)he can help test these hypotheses effectively, identify gaps between perception and reality, build buy-in, and infect others with excitement until the teams reach success!
There is no well-defined path to success on transformations due to a heavy dependence on the strategy, culture and adoption. Yet these nomadic trusted partners have been a common theme among many of the successful transformations in which I have participated, because they helped the teams pivot quickly towards results with positive impact. I would love to hear your experience:
Have you come across any nomadic trusted partners at your organization?
Are there specific ways in which they make your teams successful?
How do you identify, enable and develop them?
No matter where you are in your innovation and transformation journey, we collaborate with your teams to discover, define and deliver success specific to your vision, culture and business.