Do This Before the End of February

It’s February and you’ve got most of the year still ahead.   See if you can answer these questions clearly and briefly:

  1. What is your strategy?
  2. What is the over-arching vision you have for your company?
  3. What is the major theme, or themes, you want your people to run hard at this year?
  4. What are your top three priorities for the company?

Your people want to know how to move forward, what to base their day-to-day decisions on, and how to know they are on-track.  If you’ve put together a simple roadmap or strategy, it will be found posted in their work areas, cubicles and offices.  More complex strategies are in PowerPoint presentations or binders and they rarely get looked at.  So if you can answer the four questions above, make sure your people know the answers too.  If you can’t answer them, you need to get to work.  As I said, most of the year is still ahead.

© Copyright 2017  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 Best Answer to “What’s Your Strategy?”

I like to ask CEOs what their business strategy is.  Sometimes I get a crisp, clear response, but often the answer either is a bunch of words without clarity, or something along the lines of “We have a whole strategy…it’s in our strategy document.”  If you want your organization to be sharply-focused on delivering your strategy, and to be fully engaged and energized to make it happen, then you need to have a very clear strategy statement–one that you can repeat, and can easily be repeated by others.

There are a number of ways to do this, even for very large and complex organizations.  Here are three examples:

  1. Concise strategy statement:  “Our goal is ________, and we’ll accomplish that by focusing on two things: _________ and __________.”
  2. Rallying cry:
    • Canon: “Beat Xerox”
    • Komatsu: “Encircle Caterpillar”
    • Nike: “Just Do It.”
  3. Strategic theme:
    • Wegmans: “Every Day You Get Our Best”
    • General Electric: “We’ll be #1 or #2 in every business”
    • FedEx: “Absolutely, positively overnight.”

These approaches are very common with large companies, and they are not just marketing slogans — many, if not most, were developed primarily for employees.  I have seen CEOs effectively use all of these at all levels of organizations.  There are two keys to using these effectively:  First, make sure the statement is unambiguously clear.  You may have to provide explanations or context, especially when first using the statement.  Jack Welch provided clear and cogent reasoning behind his strategy statements, especially during his frequent visits to management development sessions–people knew that #1 or #2 meant that if a business didn’t achieve that status, GE would sell it off.  Second, use the statement over and over and over again, not just once or twice.  Show people that you are being both focused and consistent.

6 Ways Your Board Can Help Your Strategy Succeed

An important factor in implementing your strategy is getting your board involved.  Yet many of the boards I work with spend way too much time on the past–reviewing operational updates and financial results.  That’s like looking in the rear view mirror to drive a car.  Unless there are specific operations issues that you could use their help with, you’re better off sending operations updates, key operating measures, and financial results ahead of time and focus the meeting on forward-looking discussion and decisions.

Here are six ways you can increase board engagement by improving board meetings:

  1. Provide a clear, cogent description of your business strategy and give regular updates of what’s going well and what are the key challenges.
  2. Brief them on the markets you are targeting:  Give detailed analyses of customers, competitors, suppliers, products, economics, and trends so they can better understand what you want to accomplish and help you think-through best approaches.
  3. Talk about important organizational issues such as how you’re developing leadership talent, acquiring new strategic skills, developing critical capabilities, recruiting needed talent, tackling organizational challenges, and any issues with key individuals.
  4. Address obvious problems and opportunities.
  5. Provide facts on current issues involving communities, banks, media, regulators, potential acquisitions and other stakeholders to get their input.
  6. Tap into board members’ perspectives on key decisions to uncover your own blind spots, learn best practices, and develop creative ideas.

In short, take advantage of the expertise you have assembled by engaging them to share their expertise and perspectives instead of simply feeding them information they could absorb on their own.

P.S.  Do the same with your management meetings–sharing information in a group setting is largely a waste of time.  The more you use meetings to generate discussion, make decisions, and move issues forward, the better.

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A few weeks ago I spoke at the New York Bankers Association Senior Management Conference on Succession Planning and Leadership Development. Banks are required to have succession plans, but many other organizations have not approached these two subjects adequately.  Having a succession plan provides for continuity in leadership with a plan already in place when and if a surprise causes a vacancy.  It also provides very focused development objectives for senior and mid-level leaders to work on.  If you are serious about the current growth and future strength of your business, you must have both a succession process and focused leadership development.

If you want a copy of my 10 Ways to Improve Succession Planning and Leadership Development, simply send me an email or call me.

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I partner with senior leaders to drive strategy, lead change, and improve organizational performance.  If you or anyone you know can use this kind of help, I’d greatly appreciate a referral.

Strategy and The Final Mile

In the cable industry, the final mile is connecting the cable system to customers’ homes.  It is the most costly part of the entire system, and in many ways the most important.  When implementing a business strategy, the ‘final mile’ is connecting the strategy to each individual’s objectives.  In many ways, it is the most important part of strategy implementation because unless you have people diligently working to achieve the strategic objectives, it won’t happen.  Yet in many companies, little is done to make this final connection.  Instead, the strategic plans get put in binders for senior managers, and those binders move from desktop to credenza to file cabinet, often not to be seen until the next planning session.

 

Some companies do a better job by writing articles for the company intranet, giving presentations and producing videos, but they don’t work well at making the final connection because they are general, one-way, and non-interactive.  So everyone is left with a bit more knowledge—they know what the program is, but their not connected.  It hasn’t changed their job or their focus so they go on doing what they’ve always done—which may or may not support the strategy.

 

So, what can you do to make the final connection?  The answer is a few very practical and important steps:

First you need a strategy that is clear and cogent (many aren’t.)  If I walked into your next senior executive meeting and asked everyone to write down your corporate strategy in 1-2 sentences what do you think would happen?  Would the responses be the same?
Second, the strategy needs to be communicated.  I know of three CEOs who thought their strategies were  too confidential to tell their organizations.  One has to wonder how they expected to achieve the strategy, and what is so confidential; after all, we’re not talking about the formula for Coca-Cola, or Apple’s next big thing.
Third, you need managers who understand the strategy, can articulate it simply and clearly, and have the skill and motivation to connect it to each individual’s objectives.  For example, “Here’s our corporate strategy, here’s what it means for our group, and let’s talk specifically about how your job needs to contribute to its success.”
Finally, you need managers who will reinforce the strategy on a regular basis by communicating it again and reviewing progress on a monthly or even weekly basis.
Connecting every one of your people to your strategy is the final mile.  It’s where the power is.  What is your process for the final mile?

How successful leaders implement strategy

Last month I wrote about the three key factors of successful strategy implementation:  A distinctive strategy, effective leadership, and a sharply-focused organization.  Of the three, only leadership provides the traction to continually move a strategy forward.  Here are ten ways leaders can strengthen their ability to implement and execute strategy:

  1. Take the lead.  Be visible.  Communicate incessantly.  The most effective leaders are continually talking in terms of the strategy and showing the way forward.  When you implement a strategy you are taking your organization into the future.  Give people a very clear picture of where you are headed, get people to buy-in and change how the organization thinks about itself.  Projects and timelines are critically important, but don’t confuse those with leadership.
  2. Prioritize.  Strategy is about making choices about what you will do and equally important, what you won’t do.  If you’re trying to be world-class in everything, then it’s highly likely that you don’t have a good strategy to begin with.  Focus on the few most important initiatives and drive them forward a mile instead of trying to move everything forward an inch.
  3. Build strong buy-in among your top team.  Head nodding in agreement during a strategy session won’t cut it.  You need every senior leader to be strongly advancing the strategy by publicly (and privately) supporting it, and by demonstrating support through their actions and behaviors:  How they communicate and make decisions.  This is the number one reason why strategies don’t get implemented.
  4. Allocate resources to achieve the strategy.  Make sure the key strategic initiatives are adequately staffed and given the appropriate resources to get the job done.  If you don’t, the strategy will go on the back burner or be seen as an add-on to everyday tasks.
  5. Objectively assess the skills needed for the strategy to be successful.  You have to very tough on this one.  If the skills aren’t there you need to take action to correct it, or change the strategy.  For example, if new products are a key to your strategy, you’ll need excellent new product development talent and process.
  6. Don’t underestimate the importance of implementation skills, particularly leading organization change and transformation.  There are effective and ineffective ways to drive change in organizations.  You want an organization that embraces change, and is eager to make it happen.  But all too often, change is ineffective and the result is short-term and superficial with an alienated workforce.  You’ve got to have the right implementation skills, and they are not normally found within most organizations.  This is the number two reason why strategies don’t get implemented.
  7. Make the strategic tactical.  Drive strategies down to individual performance objectives and decision-making.  Foster both accountability and transparency.  You want everyone accountable for their part in achieving strategic objectives, and you want everyone to know how well they are doing.  If you have a new strategy, and peoples’ jobs don’t change, something is wrong.
  8. Assiduously maintain a strategic focus throughout the organization.  Keep its attention on achieving strategic objectives and head-off the tangents and diversions that are all too alluring.
  9. Be personally involved in moving forward the few most important strategic initiatives.  Not running them.  And certainly not micro-managing them.  But making sure that everyone knows which initiatives are most important and that you are closely watching the progress.
  10. Engage the organization.  Both intellectually and emotionally.  Slide presentations about strategy rarely connect.  A good story will.

Leadership Skills For Strategy — Navigating Corporate Strategy

Business strategy is dependent on leadership skills to guide development and successfully implement. These leadership skills focus the organization on the strategy, continually energize people, and ensure progress as the strategy is implemented. Strong leaders are able to motivate both individuals and groups to avoid distractions and persevere aggressively. Leaders must also take charge when the unexpected happens, providing decisive direction and assurance. In this video, Bob compares how organization leaders must have skills similar to those found in effective boat captains, especially having a firm hand on the wheel.

See all eight segments at my YouTube Channel:  http://bit.ly/1mGfyUY

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 www.boblegge.com.

Strategic Position — Knowing Where You Are When Navigating Corporate Strategy

A key to business strategy implementation is navigation. Knowing where you are, how far you have traveled, and how much further you must go. On a sailboat, there are many instruments and tools to navigate one’s course. The same is true in business. But you cannot depend solely on one way to do the navigation. In sailing, relying on only GPS, for example, can put you in great danger if the GPS unit stops working. In this video, Bob compares navigation in sailing and navigation for strategy implementation.

See all eight segments at my YouTube Channel:  http://bit.ly/1mGfyUY

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 www.boblegge.com.