The problem is obvious. Merely going through the motions of business planning won’t get the desired results, it will get the obvious ones.
Imagine you paid good money to see a professional sporting event and the participants sauntered onto the playing field looking out of shape and under prepared. They go through the motions lacking the significant passion or commitment obviously required and not really caring if they win or lose. Clearly this would not be acceptable.
Similarly, when you take the time and expense to take your “key” staff offsite you should NOT accept such behavior. It’s the leader’s role to inspire and harness the passions of their staff by providing a vision bigger than the individuals and requiring collaboration, innovation and collective purpose. It’s the senior staff’s responsibility to create a culture of accountability and commitment to one another, their employees and the company in pursuit of the desired results. That’s how teams work and results are achieved.
Here are the wrong signs:
- You plan the event weeks in advance and people reluctantly show up unprepared.
- Presentations requested show up late of the requested deadline and are incomplete.
- Participants take every opportunity to get their phone out and keep in touch with the office.
- The event is all fluff and form but lacks substance.
- No one believes anything of value will result from the exercise. Often based on past experiences.
- AND I AM SURE YOU CAN ADD FIVE MORE OF YOU OWN!
“You get what you accept so expect more and get more”
So how do you solve this –you get serious!
- Define the purpose of the event and what success looks like.
Make it clear that the purpose of the event is to discuss the issues or initiatives required to address the critical needs of the business. Be specific in advance and charge your people to come to the meeting prepared with answer and solutions. Create the expectation that this meeting is of upmost importance and requires participants to bring their “A” game.
- This is not a 1 -2 day event, it is the launching plan of the key business initiatives the organization will commit to successfully achieving. Defining both the strategy and execution in actionable specific steps is a must. These are not optional nice to haves and failure to achieve then is not an acceptable option, so debates and commitments made are real and achievable.
- Check your distractions at the door. Ensure the office knows these people are unavailable for the duration of the event. They can check in after the event. If the staff can’t manage without then for the day ask why.
- Make the event real. Deal with real issues or real opportunities. I will add several links at the conclusion of this post for those who want clarification. Walking out of that event without full understanding and commitment is not acceptable. Make your Strategy Real.
- Strategy without execution is of no value. If you have a goal you need a realistic plan to achieving it. Poor execution is almost always the leading cause of failure of strategic plan initiatives. Most goals are achievable given focus, passion, commitment and enduring commitment. The execution plan needs to be a living document that guides and measures your progress throughout the year.
- If at any time during the meeting inappropriate levels of attention, intensity or lack of effort or commitment / buy in is observed, stop the meeting and address the causes before proceeding. Don’t let the meeting deteriorate.
In summary, the difference in producing and executing a successful Strategic Plan is setting and maintaining the expectation that the organization will commit to, and realize the stated business initiatives by taking the actions to make it real.
Make Your Strategy Real
Look Back to move forward
As leaders we need to create a sense of urgency in our organizations to harness the collective energy of our workforce. It is important that the organization is always being enabled and challenged to improve, and indifference and apathy get rooted out. This is best accomplished through the establishing, and robust execution of key business initiatives developed during the annual planning process and the development of a results orientated culture differentiating your business to customers and employees alike.
”Leaders must inspire action not demand it.”
Employee buy-in is best accomplished through enablement and not coercion. Coercion creates rebellion / pushback and anxiety. When employees feel pressured to perform they look for ways to reduce it and this may result in low performance, withdrawal or departure. Any gains through coercion are short-lived. A good leader will challenge but will not dictate.
As a leader we must create an environment where purpose is clear and where employees are actively involved early in the process.
“Don’t tell me what to do ask me to how to achieve the desired result.”
Engagement occurs when employees value the accomplishment of the goal and feel connected to the achievement of it through their efforts and contributions. Ensuring roadblocks and obstacles are removed is a key management support action in ensuring employee efforts are not unnecessarily hampered with unneeded bureaucracy or other business inefficiencies. As examples these two disruptors a) unclear responsibilities / ownership creates unnecessary power struggles orb) indecisive management decision-making are real de-motivators.
Keys to Building Engagement:
- Employees understand the goals and buy into their accomplishment.
- Employees feel empowered to a goal ownership level.
- The Plan is real and achievable.
- Success / rewards / recognition are distributed to those contributing to the attainment.
- Failure is understood and not punished.
- Leaders enable and don’t interfere.
- Trust and respect are real and not just slogans.
- Underperformance and inefficiencies are understood and resolved.
- Expectations are reasonable and sustainable.
- Accountability is clear for execution purposes not blame assignment.
As leaders we must step back and see things for what they are. I call this curb vision. This is looking at your business without bias and seeing things as they really are not as you would like them or accept them. Identifying where opportunity is and seizing it will ensure urgency is consistent and ongoing. Any Thoughts?
your strategic plan is comprised of two components. Part one is the vision which must be fully defined and vetted and part two is the requirement that the vision is supported by a realistic deployment / execution plan that is carefully managed. Vision without execution is a hallucination.
As a veteran Strategic Planner with 25+ years of progressive experience I have experienced first hand the keys to making your strategic initiatives real and achievable. Conversely, I have witnessed the common traps which many strategies fall victim to. The following image is a one page do’s and don’ts that will provide you a few top-level guidelines to which you may choose to use to evaluate you strategy’s realism.
Remember the your strategic plan is composed of two components. Part one is the vision which must be fully defined and vetted and part two is the requirement that the vision is supported by a realistic deployment / execution plan that is carefully managed. Vision without execution is a hallucination.
It is important to note a strategy is not just a great vision of a much desired future state, it’s that future state validated and driven down into to realist executable details and controls. Effective strategy is driven by passion and realized through alignment of focused resources committed to a structured and managed execution plan. Most strategies fail because they lack the way to make them real.
One final comment is trying to do too much too fast, “we know what’s wrong just fix it” approach is one sure way to kill any chance of success. Rome was not built-in a day and nor will you “fix” your organization’s issues /challenges / opportunities through wishful overly optimistic initiatives. The reality is real change takes real-time and focus. First step is the building the vision on a sound vetted platform, as discussed above, and then building a long view of how to realize the intended outcomes. My recommendation is to break the initiatives down into detailed project plans with 90 day review cycles.
As this slide suggest some, most significant strategies are multi-year in realization. That is why investing the time to build a solid plan is essential to keep the strategy alive and achievable. Breaking the plan into a first things first 90 cycle will help keep organization focus and accountability alive.
While this post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing and executing business strategy it represents some important factors that must be strongly considered.
As always I welcome your comments and suggestions.