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Sound alarm to abandon status quo

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

You can repeatedly tell employees that your organization must change, but there’s no guarantee people will believe you.

To convey your message with urgency, find a way to break through employees’ inertia. Take a cue from Stephen Elop, who became Nokia’s CEO in 2010. At the time, he wrote a 1,200-word memo to the workforce that compared the troubled company’s situation to being trapped on a burning oil platform at sea.

Once a global leader in cellphones, Nokia was lagging due to the emergence of smartphones by Apple and other competitors. Elop realized the status quo would doom the firm.

He described in stark terms a choice that employees had to make: either jump into the ocean to escape the fire or stay put and burn to death.

Many readers chafed at Elop’s memo. They felt that he was demanding too much change in an alarmist tone.

But for Elop, the alarm was justified. He wanted employees to adopt an aggressive, fearless attitude.

To reverse course abruptly, it helps to focus everyone’s attention on next steps. This prevents individuals from bickering over whom to blame for past blunders or lost opportunities.

In looking ahead, establish guideposts and set clear expectations. Help employees understand what challenges they face, how they’ll overcome them and what it’ll look like to come out the other side as triumphant victors.

— Adapted from “Captains in Disruption,” Ken Favaro, Per-Ola Karlsson and Gary Neilson, strategy+business.

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