Strategy formation has been elevated to the realm of the MBA. Curriculum is developed, courses are taught and only the chosen few get to play in this elite playground. Here the air is thin and we have come to accept that only those accustomed to flying at high altitude are entitled to be the ones to formulate the strategy. That is just the way it is and so our strategy descends from above, from the gods on high, and our gratitude is mixed with awe as we get to implement what has been commanded.
However, the widespread problem is that some 90% of strategy fails to get implemented within our organizations and so we are forced to ask, ‘why is this the case’?
There may be a host of complex explanations as to why this is the case but here are three simple questions that need to be asked and engaged if strategy is to be successfully implemented.
Firstly, there is the ‘head’ question: Do you know what our strategy is? It is often inconceivable to those soaring in the high places, that the strategy with which they have become so familiar through hours of endless debate and discussion, is not understood by those below. But often the simple reality is, it isn’t! For strategy to be effectively implemented, there has to be a collective commitment to the why, what and how of the strategy. All too often the ‘need to know’ leadership mindset that guards the information emanating from on high gets in the way of the necessary translation of knowing the strategy. Many leaders who are ensnared in this mindset have failed to understand the grasp the new reality of what it means to lead in a techno-info age, an age in which information is valuable is so far as it is shared not hoarded; and age in which there is convergence when it comes to accessing and retrieving information.
Secondly, there is the ‘heart’ question: Can you feel our strategy? In other words any effective strategy has to engage the emotions, the heart, of those tasked with its implementation. Without heart engagement you have mere compliance. Passion is a matter of the heart, and feeling positive about the strategy, is a vital component in living the strategy. When this is present the impact is felt not only by those inside our business, but it extends to all those within the full reach of our business. And herein lies the secret of authentic customer service. Passion can be drummed up in sporadic doses by why of slickly oiled motivational exercises and interventions, but this type of passion is short-lived. It usually takes the form of the ‘motivational speaker’ at the annual conference and seldom amounts to anything more than good entertainment at the time. Authentic passion emanates from achieving the collective buy-in and sense of ownership towards the attainment of a desired goal. Within organizations our operational expertise and good-sense, so important to the formation of strategy, is matched by a poor understanding of the ‘people-issues’ that are vital to the successful execution of any strategy.
Thirdly, there is the ‘hands’ question: What are you doing to implement our strategy? When there is an understanding (head) of what the strategy is; a commitment (heart) to the strategy, only then can there be an intelligent, measurable, coordinated and practical ‘doing’ of the strategy. Strategy depends on everyone doing his or her part in achieving the successful execution of the strategy.
A positive response to these three simple questions creates the context for another vital characteristic of organizations that desire to be successfully in this brave new world of work, namely, the ability to respond and adapt to the unexpected. The ability to adapt quickly to the unexpected requires a level of ownership to permeate throughout the organization. Such ownership provides the momentum for individual or group initiative to be exercised.
You want your staff to practice such initiative, the kind of initiative that is beyond ‘being trained’? Well then, a good starting point would be to spend some time asking your people, (and by ‘your people’ I do not mean only those familiar with your office) these three questions. And who knows, you may just be surprised by what you learn about your organization!