Set a plan, get resultsWritten by Eric Kurjan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Formulating a solid business strategy — one that provides your organization with true competitive advantage — is a real challenge. However, when I polled Toledo-area business leaders, I found that they viewed strategy building as the easy part. A strategic plan is usually defined by a small group of senior leaders, and a great deal can be accomplished in an off-site session with four to eight strong leaders.
However, strategy execution involves every person in the organization every single day, making it absolutely the toughest problem in business.
The fundamental issue for most organizations is the inability to get their strategic plans into the hands of the people doing the work every day.
Often leaders do a poor job describing what they want or need to be completed and then fail to be consistent in those orders once they have been given. Hence employees are jerked back and forth from task to task without regard for the priority or importance of the work. The results are painful — poor productivity, lack of job satisfaction and worst of all, the most important work goes undone.
The problem is that most entrepreneurs start out focused on building widgets but eventually need to transition to building a business that can build widgets. This is managing the issue of working in business versus working on the business. These are two very different skills. Developing leaders and equipping 100 percent of the work force to make good decisions every day while keeping them aligned is something that very few organizations do and even fewer do well for very long. It’s a never-ending requirement because the organization keeps growing and changing.
Knowing how to plan and execute while overcoming today’s surprises is the most foundational capability any organization can have. It’s important for your business to figure out how to become, and organization that grows its own capability to execute.
The growth paradox
The execution problem increases geometrically as an organization grows. Growth always brings bigger problems: new employees, more employees, bigger competitors, cash requirements and so on. Whenever a business solves today’s problems, tomorrow’s become bigger. An organization that is going to execute tomorrow must be building increased execution capability today. Solving this one problem will make all future problems easier to solve.
We’ve learned best practices from quality programs like Baldrige, lean and Six Sigma, from strategy- communication tools like Balanced Scorecards and from personal productivity tools (spreadsheets, word processing, e-mail, calendaring, etc.). All of these developments have contributed to the execution revolution that’s now underway. These programs have made it easier to drive company goals and objectives deeper into the organization. Strategy no longer just resides in the planning notebook on the CEO’s desk.
Small- and mid-sized businesses now have an opportunity to leapfrog past a whole generation of impractical and expensive tools and approaches that have been used to attack this problem of executing strategy. The new approach allows smaller businesses to “jump ahead” and be much more effective at competing with larger entities with fewer resources. The new methods reduce the time, resources and risk associated with achieving their 10-year vision. Our studies show that CEOs adopting a complete strategy execution process estimate they are 2.5 times more likely to reach their 10-year vision versus not following a complete integrated strategy execution program.
How it’s done
There are several critical elements required to overcome the economic and expertise barriers and also to overcome the human-nature tendency to not do the things we know we should. An enduring program for strategy-execution requires the following core elements: follow a defined process, get help and use tools to measure and track results.
Be forewarned, however. If any of these core elements are missing, the results will not be sustainable. That’s why all the best business books, seminars, software, training programs and other alternatives, by themselves, just don’t “last.” If you want results, you have to follow the plan and more importantly execute it.
Eric Kurjan is the president of Six Disciplines Northwest Ohio. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to a select group of smaller organizations. For more information, visit www.SixDisciplines.com/Toledo or call (419) 581-2823.