5 Key Levers for Successful Strategy Execution

Most strategies fail to achieve their objectives, not because the strategies are faulty, but because the implementation is weak.  It’s like building a beautiful jet airplane requiring 5000 feet to take off, but having a runway of only 2500 feet for it.  The examples are all over the place and it doesn’t matter if it’s an organic growth Jetstrategy, a merger, an acquisition, or any significant strategy involving change; if your implementation is weak, the odds of failing is high.

What makes for strong implementation?  The top five success factors are these:

  1. Articulating a clear direction forward. A leader who clearly articulates a vision of the future, or a compelling mission, or a distinctive strategy, or all three.  Sometimes a clear vision of the future and the strategy to get there work the best.  Other times, especially when the future cannot be seen so clearly, a compelling mission statement such as Jack Welch’s “Be number one or number two” provides the best direction.  For a long time “Beat Benz” was the mission of Toyota.
  2. Building a culture and process of accountability at all levels of management beginning at the top. If the senior executives aren’t actively demonstrating sponsorship for the strategy, if they aren’t making priority decisions and modeling the right behaviors, then prepare to fail.  One utility became a client when their strategy was failing and they realized they needed much better implementation.  When I told them that they were the primary problem because they were more interested in their own functional objectives than in furthering the strategy, they didn’t like it.  In fact, they argued for a while, but in the end stepped-up their game and the strategy was a big success.  The real key here is the productive use of metrics.
  3. Creating employee ownership of the strategy – helping them feel a part of the business. T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, and strategy presentations can help, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing the point entirely.  You have to help employees feel a part of the business, to know that the organization’s success translates into success for them at some level.  Being a great place to work is not the same thing as aligning the organization’s best interests with your own.  Focus less on what motivates individuals and more on making the connection between what’s in it for an individual to have a stake in the organization’s goals.  The difference is passion.
  4. Communicating continually where the organization is headed and what progress has been achieved. This includes injecting energy and rejecting diversions.  My rule of thumb is that when the time comes that you are you’re sick and tired of communicating the strategy, that’s when you are beginning to get through.
  5. Putting all forms of bureaucracy, procedure, policy, reporting, and meeting on trial for their lives. Find out what gets in the way of people doing what they need to do, and clear the way.  Bureaucracy only develops in cultures that value safety and risk avoidance,  abhor responsibility and accountability, and derive satisfaction from wielding limited power to control others.  Peter Drucker once said, “Much of what we call management is making it difficult for people to do their work.”  That, and not valuing the knowledge and skills of the people you have, are shortcuts to creating a low-performing organization.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

The One Thing Most Leaders Don’t Know About Culture Change

When planning any sort of culture change, be aware that culture change often has an impact on customers and vendors.  This is particularly true when making a strategic change in the business such as making an acquisition or making changes to get on a new growth curve.  Develop a compelling message for those outside your organization, one that fully reinforces what you are doing inside the organization.

For example, several companies I am currently working with are narrowing their strategies to be more distinctive, and to strongly focus their resources (and take full competitive advantage) of what needs to drive their businesses forward.  In every case, these changes in strategy also creates new demands on vendors and increased benefits for their customers.  The need for good messaging goes well beyond employee focus to include vendors and customers.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Seven Causes of Poor Company Performance

Over the years that I have worked with companies to improve performance, just about every cause of poor performance can be traced to one or more of the following:

  1. Lack of accountability.
  2. Employees don’t act like owners.
  3. The business strategy and operational focus is unclear.
  4. The organization’s structure gets in the way.
  5. Key skills, capabilities or talent are missing.
  6. Incentives are not aligned.
  7. Weak leadership.

Every one of these causes has a solution — sometimes more than one solution.  But I find that rather than solve the problems, they tend to go on and on until they reach a crisis point.
Are you having difficulty with one of these?  If so, are you taking positive and decisive action to correct it?

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

 

Ten Reasons Why Strategies Fail

  1. There isn’t a strategy.
  2. The strategy is distributed in 3-ring binders, everyone celebrates getting that done and thinks the strategy will implement itself.
  3. The strategy is actually an operations improvement plan—not a strategic view of the future business and how to achieve it.
  4. The strategy is not simply and clearly communicated to the organization, so no one understands it and cannot possibly execute it.
  5. Senior management treats the strategy as so confidential they cannot share it with the organization—who do they think is going to execute it?
  6. The senior team sees strategy as an annual day-long discussion with lunch, and it never becomes part of the day-to-day work and decision-making.
  7. There is no accountability or follow-through, and no plan to deliver the outcomes required by the strategy
  8. The strategy never gets translated into division, function, and individual responsibilities.
  9. Urgent matters trump important/strategic initiatives, so after strategic planning, everyone goes back to fighting fires.
  10. Too many initiatives with conflicting priorities are owned by the same people.

Strategies never fail during planning, but during execution.  After developing the strategy, get clear on how it will be implemented including communication, action steps, accountabilities, and required resources.  Strategy should drive the business, not day-to-day challenges.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

How to Use Your People Time

Here’s what works:  Divide your workforce into three groups based on their performance:  The top 20%, the middle 70%, and the bottom 10%.  On which group do you spend most of your time?  If you’re like most managers, an inordinate amount of your time is spent addressing the bottom 10%.  That’s not a good return on investment.  Instead, use the same percentages — 20-40% of your time challenging, stimulating and rewarding the top 20%, 50-70% of your time communicating with the middle 70% (including a substantial amount of listening,) and only 10% of your time on the bottom 10% — telling them exactly where they stand, helping them to significantly and quickly improve, or failing that, separating them.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Improving Management Development

David Ogilve, the advertising guru, once noted that half the money spent on advertising is wasted; the problem being that no one knows which half.  The same could be said of training, although I suspect that perhaps as much as 90% of training is wasted.  And unlike advertising, we can know what training is wasted — it’s the training that doesn’t transfer to the workplace.

Management training in particular is fraught with this anomaly.  Time and again I’ve seen companies spend a lot of money on supervisor training with little to show for it.  Even though all the participants are grateful for the opportunity to attend the training, and they come back with glowing reviews of the instructor and the course, very few of what is taught results in improved performance.

Some years ago a study compared the various ways of developing executives and managers and looked at the resulting improvements in performance.  What they concluded was that the very best development experiences happened when participants worked on real business problems in their own companies.  Not only did they solve real problems, but they also learned a lot, all of which they could use on the job.

The bottom line is that putting people to work on real problems, with the time to do it and some good guidance, will give you a far better return on investment than sending everyone off to the next public seminar.  Think about it.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Improving the Value of Your Workforce — One Person at a Time

As a leader or manager, one of your tasks is to continually increase the value of your workforce.  Usually this means training and developing groups.  But you should also be thinking about individuals, particularly:

  • Separating those who do not or cannot perform to standards
  • Separating those who do not or cannot behave in-line with the corporate values
  • Selecting and hiring those who do fit the culture and will likely be high performers.

Each and every improvement increases the overall value of your workforce.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com