After years of leading teams and advising companies across industries on how to align their people+process to be effective in executing the strategic plans, one fact is very clear to me. Poor execution will sink strategy every time.
At the heart of failed execution are three realities.
- Too many priorities impact employees’ ability to understand the importance of “this initiative over the next.”
- Lack of clear direction on how these directives align with the bigger organizational goals.
- Why their work matters and how it fits into what the executive team says is most important.
I learned this the hard way from my own experiences leading high-performing teams. As leaders, we are exposed to our strategic plans and key initiatives daily. So frequently, we become desensitized to the change swirling around us.
Our people, on the other hand, are not privy to the same level of frequency or detail. On more than one occasion, I found myself answering questions like “Why are we doing this again?” What I came to realize was that I wasn’t keeping them current on the journey we were on because I was so comfortable with it. I forgot the importance of reminding my team why their unique skills mattered in the bigger picture of our company goals.
What I came to realize is it’s our responsibility as leaders to bring people along the way and to remind them where we’ve been and where we’re going. To do this I created a simple, yet effective, approach for leaders to use with teams to remain current and connected. Below are the three steps you can immediately put to use.
- The Past Serves a Purpose
Context is so important in change initiatives. Executing on strategy is about implementing change of some sort, whether it be grounded in a mindset, process, or product.
Providing a sense of events from the past that have shaped our company or team preserves the history and connects everyone to the WHY.
- Our Current State and Need to Evolve
Human instinct is to settle into a routine. We are creatures of habit. If companies are to remain competitive, evolution and reinvention must happen. Which means change is inevitable. Stating where we are now and why we need to evolve is key to effective execution. Helping people understand why the company needs to evolve should include details on the challenges being faced or opportunities to be seized. Context is key to minimizing the “why are we doing this again” sort of questions.
- What’s Ahead and Why Their Work is Important
Business moves fast and it’s not uncommon for people to be “heads-down,” plugging away. We move from task to task, checking off our to-dos from lengthy lists. If we aren’t intentional in bringing our people along with us, the shift in direction will feel jarring. When we describe where the company is going, the most important piece that can’t be forgotten is including why the work of our teams are important. The more we can tailor the message to each role, the stronger the commitment we get from each person in executing on the key strategic initiatives.
Given how much time and resources are invested in developing strategy and business planning sessions, it would make sense that a similar level of investment would be made in the efforts to execute and operationalize. In order to make all the planning effort worthwhile, attention needs to be given towards developing a solid communication plan. Using a framework like the above allows leaders to communicate a consistent message that reflects alignment from the executive suite throughout the organization. Perhaps equally important, it’s an inclusive approach that makes change efforts stickier and executing on the plan more likely to succeed.