Your strategy is worthless…unless it’s implemented

Here’s how it often goes: The strategy session is done. The new strategy is compiled in binders and distributed to senior management. The binders make their way from desktop to credenza to file cabinet. The research says that between 60 and 90 percent of strategic plans fail to achieve their objectives.

A new business strategy, no matter how well it is thought-through in planning sessions, will not automatically be implemented. In fact, strategy implementation is usually much more difficult than strategy formulation. Shifting the momentum of the organization to support the strategy is far more than projects and task lists, coffee cups and t-shirts. That’s why it is a separate task requiring focus, planning, and above all, commitment from the top.

© Bob Legge 2013 All rights reserved

Bob Legge works with companies to improve individual and organizational performance. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, non-profits, education and government. To find out more, contact Bob at boblegge@boblegge.com or call him at (585) 305-7853. Bob’s website is http://www.boblegge.com.

Reinvesting in your best people

The manager was frustrated. “I’m losing my skills,” he said, “I’m not growing here. The challenges are routine and they’re not willing to invest in me.”

People are assets that can grow in value, or stagnate. The worst get comfortable and coast. The best want to be stimulated and challenged. As the economy recovers the people most likely to jump ship are those who are most capable but feel held-back. More money can help in the short-term, but the best solution is to recognize that your best assets demand and deserve continuing investment. The two best kinds of investment are 1. new responsibilities to broaden knowledge and provide rapid learning, and 2. coaching to give insight into how they are perceived and provide immediate structure for improvement progress.

What are you doing to invest in your key human assets?

 

Bob Legge works with companies to improve individual and organizational performance. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, non-profits, education and government. To find out more, contact Bob at boblegge@boblegge.com or call him at (585) 305-7853. Bob’s website is http://www.boblegge.com.

6 Keys for Leading Successful Change

Let’s say you need to change your strategy, make an acquisition, introduce a new IT system, or any other important change. How can you set it up so that the change is most likely to succeed? Based on 30 years of helping leaders with major change, here are six key success factors.

1. Make sure all your executives actively sponsor the change. Often, one executive’s area will be the focus of the change, but don’t let the other executives abdicate their responsibility. You need all executives supporting the change both in public and in private. A banking client was changing their core IT system. The bulk of the work was in IT, but it required support from all other areas. Rather than seeing it as primarily IT’s project, the other executives needed to ensure high priority support from their people. When one of the other executives saw it as IT’s, instead of a corporate priority, the change bogged-down. You cannot let that happen.

2. Communicate individually with each key executive and manager. It’s simply not enough to get managers in a room and announce a change initiative. If it’s a critical change, you have to make sure each key person understands why the change is important to the organization and to them individually. The only way to make that connection and to get the buy-in is to meet with people individually. It’s too easy in a group meeting to nod one’s head in agreement, and then walk off with no responsibility.

3. Put in place a fail-safe accountability process. Specify who is going to do what and when it will be completed. Develop a mechanism to regularly track progress. Have a process to review progress, validate success, and put in place actions to get anything behind schedule back on tract. You’d be surprised how many executives and managers are not used to leading an accountability process. Demonstrate how it needs to be done and provide them with coaching if needed.

4. Deal with resistance effectively. The question isn’t whether you’ll get resistance, but how you will address it when it occurs. So be prepared by anticipating what the resistance will be and how to address it. The best way to is to acknowledge the resistance and reframe it. It is a big mistake to squash the resistance or to ignore it—that simply drives it under the surface where it will fester. Think of it this way: Resistance is not bad—it’s natural. It’s a sign that people are taking the change seriously – that’s good. The skills involved in handling resistance are learnable and using them effectively will make a huge difference in being able to move change forward. Those skills belong in every manager’s toolbox.

5. Communicate successes, progress, and challenges. Keep people informed. Take a lesson from revolutionaries who always seize the means of communication early on. Communication is a powerful lever, don’t let rumors and naysayers take over the messaging. Provide regular updates of successes, let people know where you are in the process, and share the difficulties too—it helps to legitimize the communication. A manufacturing client had only been communicating positive news. In doing so, they were losing credibility because people knew the difficulties. Only when they began to realistically communicate did the scuttlebutt diminish.

6. Never rely on HR, lower level managers or outside consultants to lead the change. They do not have the authority to legitimize it and drive it successfully. Senior management always must take full responsibility for leading major change and be fully accountable for its success.

Improvisation: In Music and in Business

Many of the famous classical composers were excellent at improvisation.  Mozart for example, would ask an audience for a few musical notes, then sit at a piano and improvise a complete concert based on those notes.  Musical scores were meant to be documentation, but musicians would often improvise when playing the music, much as jazz musicians will improvise on standards of the Great American Songbook.  In a discussion with Eastman School of Music associate dean Howard Potter over the weekend, he explained how classical music study took a turn about 100 years ago, moving away from improvisation skills to concentrate instead on technique and playing scores exactly as written.  Potter says there is a beginning resurgence of improvisation in music education today.

The parallels to business are intriguing.  Many companies focus on “playing the score,” having everyone follow policy, procedure and instruction.  This approach helps to ensure consistency and cost control—vital to driving profits.  Yet the lifeblood of industry leaders is in innovation, and increasingly, that is realized by encouraging and enabling employees to improvise—to try different approaches and develop new ideas.  This is a strategic choice that is very different from and should not be confused with continuous improvement or problem solving; both of which seek incremental change.  Implementing a strategy to become an innovative organization requires a different approach to talent, to management processes, and even at times to organization structure.

Which strategy is more important to you:  Following the score, or improvising/innovating?  Does the way you implement your strategy reflect the differences?

Bob Legge works with companies to improve individual and organizational performance. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, non-profits, education and government. To find out more, contact Bob at boblegge@boblegge.com or call him at (585) 305-7853. Bob’s website is http://www.boblegge.com.

Why Your Strategy Depends on Talent

The success of your strategy depends heavily on the quality of your talent, particularly in key positions.  Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, says the best performers are twice as good as average in procedural work and ten times better than average in creative and inventive work.  I agree.  The worst mistake you can make in hiring is to bring on a mediocre performer, because you’ll probably keep him/her for a long time, unlike a weak performer who will likely be separated or leave in the short-term.  The lessons?  First, make sure you have outstanding talent in key positions.  Second, upgrade your process to select the best.

© Bob Legge 2013  All rights reserved

Coming Soon:  I just finished filming an 8-part video series on business strategy and tactics and sailing.  Filmed on my boat, a Cape Dory 36, the series covers strategy, tactics, leadership, navigation, change and more in both sailing and business.  The parallels are entertaining and compelling.  I’ll be providing links very soon.

When you know what to do, but just aren’t doing it.

The chief financial officer and I were discussing our objectives and moving ahead with coaching when she stopped, leaned forward, and said, “I know what I need to do, I’m just not doing it.”

Of course, one of the most important parts of coaching is to give visibility on blind spots:  How an executive is seen by others and the behavioral changes that would dramatically improve effectiveness.  But the CFO’s point was also good one–executives often know what they need to do, but in the midst of day-to-day demands they just don’t do it, reverting instead to old behaviors and routines.  A key benefit of coaching is to improve performance and perceptions by helping to ingrain new behaviors.  It’s a major reason why already successful executives seek out coaching:  To get better and better at what they do.  If you’re like the CFO, and know what you need to do, but just aren’t doing it, chances are you’ll continue not doing it unless you make a change.  Consider coaching.

Bob Legge works with companies to improve individual and organizational performance. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, non-profits, education and government. To find out more, contact Bob at boblegge@boblegge.com or call him at (585) 305-7853. Bob’s website is http://www.boblegge.com.