“Move out of your comfort zone. You only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new” (Brian Tracey)

In an accelerating, disrupted and challenged world, change visions are becoming more stretched of necessity. More and more executives, in their ongoing quest to become industry leaders or having a company that enters new markets first, are having to tweak their visions to re-aim at targets that are ever-changing. The world economy is fragile, complicated by uncertainty, poor or selfish decision-making and ever-diminishing disposable income for many. To be frank, middle- and lower-income classes find themselves tightening their belts to survive and get through this torrid time.

Companies without flexible stretch strategy development experience will probably flounder. They find it extremely difficult to figure out what to do because its different from anything that they have done before. Frequently, they retreat from the obvious because it is threatening. Sometimes they attempt to convince themselves that small modifications in their current ways of operating will eventually achieve their vision, or because they can think of no strategic possibility, they conclude that their vision is ridiculous, even though it is not.

In our volatile world, where uncertainty is prevalent, stretch strategies are needed to achieve stretch visions. Leaders need to focus on applying energy to the following:

  1. A compelling vision aligned to real needs – perceived needs don’t cut it. Research needs to be undertaken to establish real needs within customer demographics that can be solved with the company’s products or services. While some have the means to buy ‘nice-to-haves’, most people or companies purchase according to real needs.
  2. A concrete conviction – leaders need to tell the story of their vision in ways that motivate and engender buy-in from employees. A good story creates a vivid vision and influences the ensuing strategy. It challenges current inertia and accelerates changed behaviour.
  3. A stretch strategy – involving everyone in the development of a strategy breeds creativity and kick-starts participation. An environment, where everyone’s ideas are taken seriously, considered, and implemented if good, grows contribution and discretionary effort. A co-created strategy results in co-ownership of the strategy.
  4. Consistent care – change is difficult for all humans; we balk at having to think and do things differently. Wise leaders understand resistance to change and eliminate (as many as possible) obstacles that stand in the way of success. At the same time, smart leaders demonstrate compassion and offer a helping hand to walk with employees through the change process.
  5. Change communication – clarity of direction, problem-solving/solution-finding and shifts within processes all require sufficient amounts of dialogue to solidify action steps and achieve focus amongst employees. Leadership presence is essential for this communication to take place.

Stretch visions require stretch strategies. Assuming that linear or logical plans and budgets alone adequately guide behaviour will not propel you into the future. Visions need to be alive, forever moving (e.g., commitment to serving people well) and bold – so also do stretch strategies. Leaders, together with employees, need to create the right stretch vision and stretch strategy to accomplish real, meaningful and long-lasting change.

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