21st-century mobilisation leverages ‘practical wisdom’ to move mountains

It used to take the giants of the pharmaceutical world at least five years to deliver a vaccine. Yet when the world was struck by Covid-19, Pfizer managed to deliver a vaccine in just eight months. Others such as Moderna, Johnson & John­son, and Astra Zeneca, demon­strated similarly extraordinary feats of transformation.

 

The people that achieved this embraced techniques that we at VISION recognise and have been help­ing clients with for years. We call it “21st-century mobilisa­tion”, and it incorporates a particularly powerful skill that Aristotle called Phronesis, otherwise known as “practical wisdom”.

 

We know the importance of practical wisdom at VISION – we’ve been one of the world’s leading mobilisers of compa­nies since 1984. Mobilisation as a style of management for the 21st-century is necessary whenever organisations need to make changes fast.

 

After Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said he would deliver a vaccine within a year at most, the company went on to achieve this extraordinary challenge in just eight months. And yet, the techniques that Bourla spells out are largely the same as those that VISION has been bringing to clients, long before the pandemic and throughout it.

 

Some of the elements of mobilisation are clear:

  • The leader should set a big, broadly compelling, admi­rable, and motivating goal.
  •  Workstreams that ordinar­ily happen sequentially (to reduce financial and operational risk) must be designed to be executed in parallel.
  • Work must start immedi­ately with partners, before hashing out all the contrac­tual details.
  • Everything should be streamlined according to the goal and the satis­faction of the customer (which, in the case of Pfizer, was the patient).

The term “mobilisation” was coined in the 20th century to refer to collecting, train­ing, supplying and delivering military conscripts to their units. This was later expanded to “total mobilisation” with the realisation that winning a war had as much to do with organ­ising industry and the home front as it did the army.

 

The main changes from 20th-century to 21st-century mobilisation revolve around the key skills of: simplifica­tion; pacesetting; resolving; coaching; trust building; and mood management. And these are the areas for which a 21st century mobiliser needs practi­cal wisdom.

 

For an in-depth exploration of these facets of 21st-century mobilisation, download the full report, 21st-century mobilisa­tion. In the next column, we will list the ten steps necessary to make 21st-century mobilisation work, and explore where it fits within the four key manage­ment orientations that your company could employ.

 

This article first appeared in Utility Week.