A popular Chinese proverb states, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” For many companies today, one of the most pivotal steps they can take is to define a strategy for their organization. This step sets the direction, the goals and charts the course to get there.
Getting those first steps right is critical. But once you have the strategy defined, the hard work of implementing it and making it real begins. And its those steps, the execution part of the journey, that can be the most challenging and often the most complicated.
Today, we are pleased to have Jim Clark from Mass Ingenuity join us on our blog to talk about how to make the journey from strategy to execution a successful one. Jim is a passionate believer in the power of enabling enterprises throughout North America to meet their goals through effective performance management.
Getting Stuck on the Journey:
In our work with clients of all shapes and sizes, across numerous industries and markets, and in various evolutionary stages, we consistently see a common list of challenges, frustrations, and inefficiencies that are impediments to achieving the organization’s objectives.
- We see clients who have a burning platform but are struggling with broken processes or are trying to operate within a business model that is in trouble.
- We see organizations that are going through significant contextual change and whose employee are frustrated that the business model is changing in dramatic ways.
- We see companies that are well on their “good-to-great” journey but are stuck as they wrestle with inefficiencies that threaten their progress.
In most of these cases, these challenges don’t stem from leadership-issues, but rather from the absence of structured system to manage the journey between strategy and execution.
Smoothing out the speedbumps: Shouldn’t we know better by now?
Every organization operates in a similar ecosystem of realities made up of:
1) External impacts
2) Internal influences
3) Finite resources (people, time, and money)
What tends to happen is that one, or all, of these realities is not fully considered as companies shift from defining the strategy into implementing the strategy.
- The EXTERNAL IMPACTS: The “external” factors are impacted by the unpredictable nature and pace of change -- economic conditions, regulatory requirements, technological advances, competitive offerings, and consumer demands are exclusively outside the leaders’ While these are not always easy to predict, they cannot be ignored.
- The INTERNAL INFLUENCES: The “internal” is influenced by decision-making tensions that exist between delivering short-term results and executing long-term strategic plans, growing sales and improving profitability, and building process discipline while allowing individuals the freedom and creativity to do their tasks.
- FINITE RESOURCES: Today's leaders are tasked with allocating and balancing finite resources to core business activities that keep the lights on and to strategic game-changing initiatives that will have the greatest impact to the organization.
When combined, these dynamics conspire to create chaos, uncertainty, and complexities that can overwhelm our ability to manage performance particularly when the process to do so is ad-hoc or inconsistent.
What do we need to do differently?
The good news is that there is a better way and that the solution lies in controlling the controllable.
All organizations have a “management system” – a formal or informal way in which stuff gets done. Our experience tells us that the more robust an organization’s management system is, the greater speed at which they can implement and execute strategy.
You need a structured way to make informed decisions and take responsive action. It is imperative that we empower individuals and teams with the toolbox to solve problems, confront challenges, and pursue opportunities that will move the business forward, one step at a time.
Charting the Course: An implementable framework
As we work with our clients, we help them implement an integrated, enterprise-wide framework to put structure around the unstructured. We look at the management of strategy much like we do anything else, as a system of intentional actions that must be connected, transparent and managed.
Our framework is based on connecting Routine Work with Strategy Work and providing a mechanism to track and report on how what our clients are doing everyday helps them meet their goals.
This framework drives 7 critical behaviours which ultimately propels companies into their best future:
- Focus on Results
- Ensure everyone is on the same page and knows the top priorities
- Allocates resources effectively, according to priority
- Eliminate fear, and engage and empower teams
- Dissolve silos, and encourage collaboration and teamwork
- Ownership and accountability is clear and widely understood
- Improvement is constant and doesn’t ever stop