Where to start with strategy delivery
Many of my clients have been incredibly busy over the last couple of months. Not just with reopening, rehiring and restarting their businesses, but with rethinking their future ambitions, redefining their vision for their business, and reshaping their strategies for realising that vision.
As a result, some have shifted their focus to the emerging opportunities, others have dramatically raised their targets and expectations, and some have broadly stuck with the direction in which they were heading. But all of them have, in some way, shape, or form, transformed the plans they had to better fit the new landscape.
The thing is, none of those plans are worth a hill of beans if they don’t get delivered.
Nobody sets out to create a strategy that isn't realisable, yet most strategies don't get realised, or at least, not in the shape or time-frame that we hope for when we write them.
And most of the time, the reasons are nothing to do with the opportunities or aims, the customers, or the context. They fail because they hit the internal buffers, blocked by the busyness of the business itself: hampered by its history; impeded by its inertia; defeated by the “day job”.
When the important, longer-term work of strategy, change and innovation, clashes with the urgent, shorter-term imperatives of day-job: of getting that sale, hitting the monthly target, and turning around a report for the boss; it’s the urgent that always, always wins out.
So how can strategies get the priority they need to succeed? Where do we start with realising that vision? Here are the four things you need to put in place.
Accountability: Ensure the KPIs for every aspect of the strategy are clearly defined and singularly owned by a senior individual. It's your job to make sure they feel accountable for their bit of the strategy, and more importantly, that they see it as a core part of their day job.
Urgency: To make strategy the priority, it also needs to become urgent. Your job is to ensure it gets broken up into short stages with specific milestones, outcomes, and decisions. This will ensure the team keep the pace high and the focus sharp.
Dedication: There will always be resourcing trade-offs between strategy and day-job, don’t default to delegating these for others to manage unless you want your strategy derailed by every minor crisis. Your job is to structure the resources to minimise these trade-offs. Focus projects into small, dedicated teams wherever you can, and ensure you only have two or three big, cross-functional programmes running at any one time.
Attention: Everyone looks where the leader is looking; their focus will be driven by yours. The relative weight you give, in every conversation, to the strategy versus the day-job, will determine the relative weight your organisation gives it as well. Use every interaction with your team to ask them about it, and every interaction with their teams to tell them about it.
In any successful business, you will be surrounded by good people. They will work hard and get busy doing whatever they think the business needs; whatever they think you want them to be doing.
Your job, as of now, is to make sure they get busy with delivering your strategy and realising your vision.