November 24, 2009
We spend far too much time planning what we intend to do as an organization and not enough time figuring out how we will get there.
The challenge is expressed a number of ways but I think Peter Drucker nailed it when he said “The biggest challenge for most businesses is executing well - not devising helium-filled plans for reaching the next level.”
How true. But this has been said over and over forever it seems yet organizations toil on believing the essence of their strategy will “deliver them from evil”.
The fact is it won’t, and unless execution gets recognition as the true driver of success we will continue to witness the demise of businesses.
Results are a function of execution and that requires a disproportionate amount of time be spent on this element of the strategic planning process.
Spend 20% of your time to determining the essence of your plan and 80% of your time on the detailed implementation plan - who needs to do what by when to breathe life into what you want to achieve.
Sooner or later your brave idea must degenerate into a number of crude deeds. Make it a cultural change objective.
Assign a Strategy Hawk to lead the execution process. Select the most senior person with the most tenacity and currency in your organization to do the job. Make it the most important item in his or her performance plan and hold them accountable to deliver the results expected.
And communicate openly and regularly on progress made. Execution heroes - find them and recognize them. Hold them up to the rest of the organization as examples to be aspired to.
Get your plan “just about right” and execute it with tenacity and perseverance through the hearts and souls of turned-on people.
That’s winning. That’s change leadership.
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- Posted 11.24.09 at 10:47 am by Roy Osing
November 14, 2009
Most organizations look at their strategy document as a description of their desired future. It is the culmination of hours of excruciating work that has tested a number of alternative courses of action and has landed on one that is believed to deliver the maximum benefit.
Indeed the strategy document does perform this valuable role. It communicates to one and all (although I have seen instances where the strategy is held in confidence on a need-to- know basis for fear that its unintentional release would cause irreparable harm to the company) where you are going and the activities necessary to get you there. From this perspective it is an essential tool in the internal communications plan to ensure all employees are on board.
But I think there is a more vital role that the strategy document plays - to record the things we learn in the course of executing the strategy.
It’s one thing to declare the direction we intend to take. It’s quite another to witness the extent to which we conform to our grand intentions in the market with real customers and real competitors.
I believe in planning on the run, the notion that you set your direction and you adjust it based on the learning you get from executing it.
The plan never turns out the way you imagined; there are too many random market variables impacting us that get in the way.
That said, the strategy document must be viewed as a destination for depositing everything that we have learned during the arduous execution process. What worked? What didn’t? Why? What is the variance diagnosis? You need to record your experiences just like you would journalize what’s going on in your personal life.
Documented experiences lead to learning which leads to adjustments to your strategy. Dump on your planning document! It’s ok to have pages ear-marked, coffee stained, scribbling and the odd blood stained paper cut. It shows that it has been used to journalize your strategic journey.
The dirtier the better.
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- Posted 11.14.09 at 05:26 pm by Roy Osing
November 11, 2009
Take a look at your strategic planning documents. I will wager that the vast majority of them are based on a 5 year period. The 5-year Plan pervades our planning paradigms and I have major issues with it.
Bottom line - does the 5th year ever happen? NO! It becomes the 4th year after one year; the 3rd year after the second year of the five year cycle. Well if the latter years never really occur why do we try and plan for them in our strategic development process? The only reason I can think of is that the 5-year plan is an accepted way of doing things when it comes to strategic planning. It is by no means DiFFERENT.
We need a planning process that is execution centric; a focus on months as the planning unit rather than years. Compressing the planning time horizon to 24 months in order to keep execution as the activity driver of the organization.
In addition, An execution focused planning approach recognizes that there are random unpredictable forces that impact the results as we move along the execution path.
We need to learn from how well the plan execution is going and make adjustments along the way.
The steps in the process include:
- Go back to EXECUTE
The result of this process is of course that your strategic plan document suddenly becomes an organic entity. It changes as you learn through execution.
It is morphed from a statement of strategic direction to what I call a repository of learning. It is a messy document. It is written on. It had coffee stains on the pages of which many are earmarked for specific reference. And, it may possess the odd blood stain from an unwanted paper cut!
It is used…... unlike many planning documents that I have seen which look like their original pristine ironed form (perched ever so elegantly on a book shelf where one can hand gesture its presence but never violates its binding).
I know some planning community will take issue with this. After all I suppose it is somewhat gratifying to believe that pristine appearance and longevity of a plan somehow defines its worth.
What a crock!
At best this view gives the organization a false sense of security; at worst it cultivates momentum management and the belief that the world doesn’t change and your original work will stand the test of time.
Don’t go there. Plan on the Run.
- Posted 11.11.09 at 11:36 am by Roy Osing
October 29, 2009
A colleague of mine, Ron Cox, Founder and CEO of Tailwind Consulting in Tampa Florida says that “a staggering 95% of employees in a company are either unaware of or do not understand the strategy”.
No wonder execution fails!
He points out something that somehow never gets dealt with. Corporate leaders go on a retreat and create a ‘helium filled strategy’ to get them to the next level and stops short of figuring out HOW it will be executed.
This is more than just defining the critical tactics and objectives to be accomplished by various people who are accountable.
It is about translating the strategy into what it means to each function involved in delivering it. What specifically should the call center rep do differently? The product analyst? The sales person? The internal audit manager?
If at the most granular level each employee in the firm doesn’t know how to behave and what results to produce within the context of the new direction change will simply not happen and improved results expected by the new strategic game plan won’t be achieved.
Line of Sight to the strategy means what it implies; each employee can “see” the strategy from their position and they understand what they need to do to contribute to the strategy.
Line of sight eliminates the problem of people not understanding the strategy since the translation to individuals cannot be done in the absence of such an understanding.
How do leaders establish Line of Sight in their organization?
Workshops. Workshops. And more Workshops with each functional unit.
The idea is to have the leader present the new strategy to a group of employees in the same work group and have THEM come up with the specific behaviors and deliverables necessary to conform to the strategy. Leaders must approve their conclusions otherwise synergy and consistency will be in jeopardy.
Arduous work? Painfully detailed work? Time consuming work? Yes on all counts, but what about the payoff? How much are you willing to invest to see your strategy executed flawlessly and results improve by orders of magnitude relative to your competitors?
I hope you said ‘Whatever it takes!’
This what leadership is all about.
Its not just creating the vision, for without the means to realize it the ‘brave idea’ it remains an illusion. Leaders must get down and dirty to establish Line of Sight for all people in their organization; if they don’t they are wasting their visionary time unless they (and their shareholders/owners) see everlasting value in pontification.
Other business strategy articles you might like…
Answer 3 questions and you have your #BusinessStrategy
6 lessons to learn from Target’s decision to bail out of Canada
#StrategicPlanning: 8 steps to dump your CRAP
- Posted 10.29.09 at 08:38 pm by Roy Osing