Kill The Company

Kill the Company: The importance of external perspectives in restructuring

We are all living through a time of huge personal, social and economic upheaval. As people, businesses, industries and nation states navigate a global pandemic, structures and institutions once assumed strong are wavering under the strain of an unprecedented collection of existential threats.

Elite sport in particular is having to face up to a drastically altered competitive and financial landscape, with the operating model that has nurtured rapid growth over the last two decades appearing ill-suited – at least temporarily – to this new reality.

For many organizations, the only way to ensure survival in a sporting landscape shaped by the pandemic is to adapt. Those adaptations can only be brought about when the challenges of the moment are confronted with openness, honesty and realism. Those who don’t acknowledge the need for change, or are slow to restructure in light of the impact, risk becoming hostages to fortune.

‘Kill the Company’

So how exactly should organizations respond to change and start to understand the action that is required to ensure that they survive the crisis and are able to thrive on the other side of it? 

In recent weeks we’ve been writing about conceptual and applied tools that can support restructuring efforts, such as the Viable System Model. While frameworks of this kind are extremely useful to determine the specific course of the restructuring process, there are a number of simpler exercises organizations can undertake to understand their strengths and weaknesses (and therefore identify the areas that need to be overhauled in response to the crisis) in broader terms.

One of the more common methods in this area is known as ‘Kill the Company’. Developed by futurethink CEO Lisa Bodell, Kill the Company is a brainstorming exercise that encourages a diverse group of employees to identify all the ways their organization could be rendered obsolete. Once ideas have been gathered, they should be discussed and grouped by function. The functions which attract the largest clusters of ideas are those that require the most immediate attention whether or not the organization is enduring a crisis at that specific moment. 

The Red Team

A group of employees attempting to take an outside view of their organization is a good starting point when planning for restructure. However, engaging genuine outsiders to stress test a business can be even more valuable as they are free from the blindspots and internal politics that can hamstring discussions between staff.

Typically used in the military and cybersecurity sectors, Red Teams are groups of people employed to assume the role of an attacker and exploit any weaknesses they can find in an organization, technology, or process. In professional sport, an industry that has historically been prone to an over-reliance on received wisdom and social proofing, eliminating bias in this way can be a highly effective means of establishing a clearer picture of organizational health and functional efficiency.

Whether it’s achieved by Killing the Company, Red Teaming, or another method, identifying existential threats and areas for change helps leaders to develop a better understanding of organizational vulnerabilities. Once that knowledge has been acquired, the groundwork has been laid for a more thorough systems analysis that can assist with the practicalities of implementing an appropriate, efficient restructuring plan in response to relevant challenges.

Chris Mann is Head of Content at Sportsology

Interested in learning more about organizational restructuring? Download our research paper, Back to the Future: How about a Beer?

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