How to kill (or improve)

Strategic plans are worthless unless they are successfully executed. Period. Similarly, high intelligence is worthless if it’s not put to good use.

Three things that will kill your ability to execute strategy:

  1. Failure to address both the organizational and the behavioral components.  Both are important.  You see this all the time when companies reorganize, but don’t sufficiently address the behavior and attitude issues.
  2. Dividing strategic objectives into functional objectives.  Sure, many will be functional in nature, but consider this: You probably have just 1-3 key processes that drive nearly all the  value in your business.  Those are the most important capabilities in your organization, and they are cross-functional.
  3. Neglecting alignment. Failure to align any of the following with the strategy will impair your ability to execute: Alignment of your management team, your organization structure, your key processes, your people, and your reward systems.

Four things will help to create solid execution:

  1. Communicate the strategy in a way that tells a compelling story — one that employees understand, believe in, and want to deliver on. A pure business explanation is actually weak communication.  Remember:  Reason makes people think; emotion makes them act.
  2. Create alignment with the strategy throughout the organization.  This begins with vision and values, not plans and budgets.  And it ends with a clear connection between the strategy and employee performance objectives, accountabilities, and desired results.
  3. Balance market opportunities and operational improvements with the organization’s capacity to deliver. This is difficult.  There is no single clear measure, but there are indicators.  Yes, you must keep pushing people to do more, and it’s true that people work best under a certain amount of stress.  But too much stress leads to dysfunctional behavior and a decline in productivity.  The trick is to find the right balance, and it takes a tuned-in leader to do it well.
  4. A no-nonsense approach to improving the company’s most important capabilities. This has to be a strategic objective. Whether it’s the order quoting process, service delivery process, or whatever, focus on making measurable improvements to it.

Copyright Bob Legge 2010. All rights reserved.