execution Tag

Back in 2011, I was appointed to a new role as Program Manager for a portfolio of training programs. To say this was a steep learning would be an understatement. I had just spent five years on the road, globetrotting and delivering Enterprise sales training. I...

MikeOne of the things CEOs ask consistently is how they can foster more strategic thinking in their organizations.

Simply saying “I want to see you thinking more strategically” isn’t direct or specific enough to help guide people in the right direction. Thinking strategically is essentially a way of being – a mindset, a way of looking at things and linking them together.

Here are eight things you can do to improve strategic thinking.

Understand value creation and differentiation. Leaders understand the business and industry they are in, but it’s more than that. You need to understand how the industry adds value to customers and how your business differentiates that value equation from your competitors.

Connect “me to we” to “they to us” (operations to strategy). As a leader you need to be able to understand the overall corporate direction and strategy in the context of your team and your own personal areas of responsibility. Think of it like this: the strategic moves we make today are setting up the operational successes we have in the future. So the better understanding you and your team have of the connection between corporate goals and the work they do day-to-day, the more likely they and you are to focus on longer-term priorities versus staying mired in operations and shiny objects.

Here's a possible framework to structure weekly team meetings within your business and keep them on track and worth attending.

  • Personal update: everyone shares the good, bad and ugly of what's going on with them. This helps explain everyone's context and helps build trust.
  • Top three: have everyone in the room state the top three things they're focused on over the next week.
  • Stuck points: have everyone list what the key thing is that's holding them back. It can be resources, health, time, people, information, technology – anything.

The last step in the strategic planning process is often overlooked, and yet, it’s one of the most important: the action steps that will lead to the successful completion of your objectives.

But we need well-formed objectives before we can map out action steps.

Here are eight things we need to consider for solid action plans:

Ownership: one person must be responsible and accountable for tracing the progress toward each objective, keeping the team informed, ensuring timely action steps are occurring and adjusting the actions as reality teaches us what needs to shift.

Action steps: each objective needs to have a series of action steps that lay out a clear path throughout the year on how it can be achieved. If the objective is the “what,” then the action steps are the “hows.” It’s critical that the action steps are clear and actionable steps versus vague ideas or thoughts.

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Your behaviour as a leader has an enormous impact on your team and your organizational culture. Understanding the effect of your leadership behaviours on the execution of your strategy is the first step in guiding your team in the right direction.

As a leader, the best way to harness momentum and motivation around your strategy is by consistently behaving in ways that you want to see others behave, and exhibit the behaviours that you want to ingrain into your culture and ultimately pass down to everyone in your organization.

Here are a few things you can do to sustain momentum and support the execution of your strategy by being intentional with your leadership behaviours:

Be decisive and take action, however small, towards your goal. When temptation to postpone, cancel or move deadlines presents itself, let people see you take one small step toward the goal – when you can’t do it all, something is better than nothing; if you can’t do all of it, do some of it. When you put a visible emphasis on forward motion in the execution of your plan, chances are others will follow your lead.

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Over the years, I’ve become convinced that the “10/90 rule” is the best guide for dividing your time and energy between strategy and execution: 10% of the value of strategic planning is in the creation of a plan that outlines direction and priorities for the coming year; 90% of the plan’s value comes from an organization’s ability to effectively execute that plan.

If your organization is like many, once the executive team leaves the room after strategic planning, the daily grind takes over, the months start to tick away and before you know it you’re partway through the year and have made virtually no headway in executing on your strategy.

The reality is, there can be a giant gap between what needs to be done to execute a plan successfully and the potential of the organization to make it happen; it’s about more than resources and capabilities. It’s about culture.

The truth is that cultural norms can make execution far more challenging than it needs to be. Execution takes buy-in, emotional commitment to the plan and discipline. But the one element that has the greatest impact on successful implementation is your organizational culture.

Here are a few ways you can begin to shift the culture of your organization toward one that’s focused on execution.