Posts Tagged strategy execution

#strategy execution is like flying a glider

Now before I start let me say from the outset I am not a pilot, the closest I have come is sitting in the co-pilots seat on a joy flight.  But thinking about that very fun experience it occured to me there are some lessons we can learn when it comes to strategy execution.

First off though we have to get our glider in the air.  It needs the power of a winch or a tow plane (or if it is really flash it has it’s own power it can shut off once it is at the right height).  So the power to launch our strategy has to be there, the long term goals, culture, leadership, time, resources and energy as well as the change programs all need to be in place.  If these aren’t then all we have is a glider sitting on the ground!  Lots of good intent and ideas going nowhere fast.

Once we have our glider launched then the fun begins.  We need to keep enough forward momentum to keep us aloft and we need to seek out favourable currents to allow us to stay aloft and gain height for the maximum time to reach our ultimate goal.  If we don’t we would find ourselves back where we started in a short time.

In strategy terms that means keeping a rhythm or cadence which keeps the execution moving forward, avoids milestones stalling and maximises the organisational energy available to keep on the strategic journey.  If we don’t then we find that strategy work comes to a halt, people fail to engage and execute and the whirlwind of daily issues overtake us.

Using a rolling 90 day cycle for each milestone with intermediate outcomes, key activities lists, structured reporting and on line communications tools are strongly recommended as the supporting currents which keep the execution “flying”.  At the end of each cycle you must reassess the landscape and reset your targets and activities for the next 90 day period, right through the year.

We also encourage the inclusion of reporting of progress on strategy outcomes as part of the regular management review cycle, at least on a monthly (30 day) basis.  Just as you would be continually monitoring your position, height and progress in your glider and adjusting the control inputs.

Smooth, regular and timely input generates smooth execution, avoids the stop – start and the last minute catch up approaches encountered in many organisations.  It should be part of the natural culture within a team or organisation. (Our research shows if you don’t operate this way then your plan will almost certainly not be executed.)

So remember the cadence; 30 day, 90 day and yearly review points.  At the end of the year if you have executed to best practice you can land your glider at the exact point you set out for!  And then start the process all over again …..

Remember – smooth cadence, constant attention, simple communications and clear focus.

Sound like the kind of organisation you want?  Let me know what you think.


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When a team can’t change #changemanagement

Recently I have been helping a company formulate a new strategic direction.  The companies primary shareholder has had a major shift in their thinking and wants the company to shift their focus to a new customer segment, pretty much a 180 degree shift.

Now it is easy enough to develop a new strategy, objectives and milestones to meet the new mission but it isn’t easy to get the plan into action. Why?

Put simply the managment of the company has built a very strong culture, over more than a quarter of a century of existence, around the old product and market set.  They have engaged staff in that journey and employed people who fit well within that framework.  And they have used performance systems and rewards that are intimately linked to the old ways.  Unfortunately there is now a lot of resistance to what the shareholder wants.  Many companies have found themselves in such a position where a major change is required due to whatever pressures, have failed to adapt and have fallen by the wayside.  Polariod is an excellent case study.

How to solve the problem?

Well nothing can be done overnight, even though that is what their shareholder is expecting, indeed demanding.  Changing direction suddenly and with such a major impact requires fine tuning the engine of the organisation coupled with a lot of hard work and patience.  Just saying  what you want rarely makes it happen.  In fact in this case it is having the opposite, and not unexpected effect, denial, anger and head long resistance from some employees.  “Why change, we have been doing this for 20 plus years and it is working well.  The shareholder doesn’t understand, lets show them they are wrong!”

Well what I am sure of is that taking your key shareholder head on is certainly not going to be a winning strategy!

So here are the steps I have recommended.

  1. Establish the role of Manager Organisational Development (title is not that important but the power you impart to it is)
  2. Make the new role report directly to the CEO, and have the CEO give it strong and visible support.
  3. Pick the most patient, most persistent and most energetic manager to fill the position – certainly one who embraces the new direction and importantly one known for getting results.
  4. Establish the outcomes, timeframes and responsibilites for delivery of the action and execution plans – do this in a collaborative framework utilising staff from all levels, agree what must be done, by when and by whom.
  5. Have timeframes short and make goals as simple as practical – it is easier then to ensure no claw back to the old ways, changes are sustained.
  6. Establish transparent reporting arrangements – make it easy to know how the change is actually going.  This will conteract those peddling bad news.
  7. Communicate, communicate and communicate – the new direction, the reasons behind the change, the progress and the good news stories, have an open door so those seeking the real answers can get them and thus shut down the water cooler conversations.
  8. Celebrate the successes and reward those who make a positive difference.

This will generate energy and energise those who are ready to adopt the new direction.  New opportunities, new ideas and a penchant to try them can make for an exciting place to work.

Of course some people will never change.  Sadly, no matter how good they are at there job, it is best for them to move on.

Turning the ship requires a strong hand on the wheel and a close watch on drive train.

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