The Four-Step Advantage

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.

Our work at Brand Velocity has found that people generally show a particular strength in one of four areas: They possess a visionary mind (Envision), quantitative acumen (Design), an ability to construct needed structures and processes (Build) or high emotional intelligence (Operate). But what happens when you simply skip over some of these strengths?

This, unfortunately, is what occurs in many organizations. We have discovered through qualitative and quantitative analyses (backed up by research from George Washington University’s Ozgur Ekmekci) that as managers rise into the executive ranks, they tend to run roughshod over the middle two steps of the process: Design and Build. And most of the time, they don’t even realize that they’re doing this.

When you think about it, this executive blind spot isn’t too surprising. Individuals are often tapped for more senior positions because they have “the vision thing.” In addition, many are well attuned to the emotional side of getting results with and through other people—the essence of Operate.

These strengths, though, can lead talented executives to go directly from hatching a new idea (Envision) to deciding who is going to be responsible for making things happen (Operate). Too little attention is paid to determining what exactly needs to be accomplished and figuring out the right timetable (Design), and how best to implement that design (Build).

The result is unproductive. As I recount in my book Reinvent Your Enterprise, when I worked as a Coca-Cola executive, people who reported to me would often nod their head “yes” when I asked them to do something. With regularity I would later discover that they really didn’t know what I was asking for, and many times I didn’t, either.

Organizations can achieve much better results—with far less effort and aggravation—by systematically moving through all fours steps of the EnvisionDesignBuildOperate paradigm in the right order. By doing this, more people can play to their strengths and passions.

The promise is that, together, we can productively reinvent the future of our organizations. And along the way, we will ensure that no question is left unanswered—where and why (Envision), what and when (Design), how (Build) and who (Operate).

—Jack Bergstrand