Strategy execution happens in small chunks. Plan your day to hedge against procrastination. Plan your week to you carve out a space of calm in the urgent-important. Plan your month to focus on strategic goals.
Do you look like the guys in the photo as you execute strategy?
You have returned from your off-site. You have a tight strategy and a plan. Your team is enthused and ready plunge into the work. Everyone is amped for strategy execution.
Well for many teams, nothing happens. And, as the Goons used to say ‘it happens fast’. The flood of everyday operating and frenetic busyness, irresistibly sucks teams back into what they were doing before they left to talk strategy and plan. ‘Tomorrow’, there is always tomorrow! Or next week! Things will be much better next week. “And you see, this is such a busy time. Next month we will have time”.
Days become weeks become months. The strategy and the plan are all but forgotten. The months click past. Before you know it you are racking your brains in small groups again, stretching your creativity to try to recall what you all did in the previous year to contribute to delivering the strategy. You have failed at strategy execution. Again!
Defining strategy may be challenging. Aligning your team around the strategy is not easy. Planning takes time and discipline. But strategy execution is much, much more difficult. Getting your team to work towards the change defined in your strategy takes hard work. Almost all organisations today are swamped by a flood of urgent and important daily tasks that each person knows they have to complete just to keep the business running. I heard that debt counsellors tell their clients they should find one more income source, however small. In the same way you will need to find a small slice of time each week to lift your eyes from all the urgency to work on your strategy.
If you have never been responsible for strategy execution you may be forgiven for thinking that to execute you need to set a goal and achieve it.
This is incorrect.
For strategy execution you need to set strategic goals and execute these goals in the midst of a flood of daily operational urgencies.
Taking time out to work on deliverables that are not urgent, no matter how important they are, takes discipline. It’s hard. But there is a way. Here is how it works:
Your Strategic Objectives provide a frame for your strategy:
Your Lag Measures provide the picture of what you want to achieve:
Your Lead Measures provide the system through which you can achieve your lag measures:
Your scorecard, (I will still write about the power of a scorecard – ever noticed how intense a casual game of ping-pong becomes when you start to keep score). Your scorecard allows you to track your progress:
All of this is great.
Left like this it will all stand there looking great. You need an engine:
The engine consists of the weekly commitments you make to each other about what you are going to deliver in the next week to execute strategy. Again you may be forgiven for posing the weekly question “what is the most important thing I can do next week?” This is too broad. It lacks the laser-like focus required to make a difference as you execute strategy.
To successfully execute strategy you must ask this question:
“What is the one thing I can do in the coming week that will impact my lead measures?”
OK, one or two things!
And it is best to do this as a team. You look each other in the eye. You hear how the last week’s commitments were delivered and you hear and challenge each other’s commitments for the next week.
Now you may be thinking “OH <<your favourite expletive>> no not ANOTHER meeting. And unfortunately this is where teams flounder. For a team of eight to ten people, this meeting should not take longer than 10 minutes. But there are strict rules:
- Same time same place every week.
- Weekly deliverables are specific and measurable. No vague “I will do my best”
- Keep track of commitments and delivery.
- No operational commitments. Save these for your day job.
- No excuses. NO excuses! You commit, you deliver.
- Show how the previous commitments moved the measures on your scoreboard.
So there it is. The process to execute strategy.
Of course the engine to execute strategy needs fuel. Personal Motivation. I have some great material for this. A good topic for a follow-up note.