By Mike Loughrin, CEO of Transformance Advisors
Creating a sustainable organization requires well crafted strategic initiatives that are aligned with the long term vision.
This is not a given for most organizations.
Scattered improvement projects cause chaos and waste precious resources!
Two Main Problems
In his book, Principle Centered Leadership, Steven Covey identified two main problems for organizations that hold true today:
- Problem 1 is the lack of a shared vision. The leadership team has either failed to define the vision or they have failed to communicate effectively. In some situations, the vision may be something uninspiring such as “make lots of money for our shareholders and executives.” Such a goal will never be a shared vision and does not need to be communicated.
- Problem 2 is the lack of a strategic path. In this case, the leadership team has either failed to define a strategy with appropriate strategic initiatives or they have failed to communicate effectively. One study found that 95% of employees are unaware of or do not understand the strategy of their organization.
In the bestseller, Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath provide concepts to tackle these problems:
- For problem 1, “Direct the Rider” because, “what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.” There is no need to spend enormous amounts of money on operational excellence programs, like lean or six sigma, if the people working the improvement projects do not know where the organization should go.
- For problem 2, “Shape the Path” because, “what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.” Most organizations can only focus on 3 to 5 strategic initiatives. Launching dozens of improvement projects without direct linkage to strategic initiatives creates an environment where people do not know and cannot focus on the right priorities. Everyone looks bad and morale plummets.
No vs. Yes
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” – Steve Jobs
While saying no seems like common sense, reality is often the opposite as people face the madness of daily challenges and short term pressures to make the numbers.
One study reported that 95% of responding executives say their companies do not have a rigorous and disciplined process for focusing top management’s time on the most important issues.
Four Roles of Leadership
One of the greatest responsibilities and challenges of the executive leadership team is to provide direction.
In his book, The 8th Habit, Steven Covey defines the four roles of leadership as:
- Modeling: Setting a good example and creating trust
- Pathfinding: Building a common vision and set of values
- Aligning: Setting up systems to say on course
- Empowering: Focus people on results and get out of way
Call To Action
Exercising the four roles of leadership is required to focus the organization on those 3 to 5 strategic initiatives that must be accomplished in order to achieve the vision
In the book, Dynamic Strategy Making, Larry E. Greiner and Thomas G. Cummings point to an important lesson in their research on successful organizations: “Senior executives, using their own experience, expertise, and judgment, are responsible for creating and executing a unique strategy for their firm.”
You do not outsource strategy development to outside consultants.
You should leverage a coach, but the leadership team is responsible for the strategy.
This is their job and they should either step up to the plate or go home.
For effective strategy execution, you need a vision and a strategy to get to get there.
On one hand, creativity, inspiration, and a little luck are proven success factors.
On the other hand, pulling together information, preparing people, and making hard decisions takes a rigorous systematic approach.
The most effective means to craft strategic initiatives will be systematic in what to do and insist that the leadership team bring creative ideas and non-linear thinking to the table.
The following milestones work best for keeping the process quick and effective:
- Get Organized
- Survey Stakeholders
- Prepare Leadership Team
- Establish Destination
- Chart Your Course
- Launch Strategic Initiatives
Target 120 Days
For many organizations, the six milestones can be accomplished in 120 days.
Each of these milestones will be explored in the next articles in this series on strategy execution.
Read the next article in this series on strategy execution
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