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Connecting The Dots, Strategy And Execution

by David Brock on April 27th, 2015

I’m sure I’m trying the patience of a number of people in a client organization.  We’re establishing the key strategies, priorities, goals/metrics for the coming fiscal year.  The CEO is very clear about what he wants to accomplish–though I had to wrestle him down to focusing on the top two.

It was a great exercise for he and a few of his top executives.  But after some reflection and debate, as well as some reshaping and redefinition of some of their strategies, he was able to identify the top two things, then started identifying the strategies beneath these top 2 that drove the attainment of the top two.

We then started cascading these through the organization, challenging each of his direct reports to identify their “top 2,” their goals/metrics, as well as critical success factors.  And these executives in turn asked their direct reports to do the same thing.

The idea we had was that we wanted to cascade this all the way down to the bottom of the organization, to each individual contributor.  We both wanted to make them part of the process, but more importantly, we wanted everyone in the organization to be able to answer the question, “What do you do that contributes to the attainment of the organization’s goals?”

One of the problems with strategy and execution is the inability to connect the dots to everyone in the organization.  What happens is sales people, marketers generally think, “Strategy is what those guys in the corner offices do every day.  It has nothing to do with me, I just plug away doing my job…….”

And that’s where the great disconnect is–and why we see so many strategies fail in execution.

Connecting the dots to everyone in the organization is critical to alignment and execution.  If each person knows and is measured on how they contribute to the execution and attainment of the strategy, then we are more likely to be able to execute the strategy.  It’s not that a person needs to know they contribute 0.0000015% to overall EBITDA goals. Or that by writing this case study, it will contribute to 0.0000035% increase in market share.

It’s really about alignment, knowing what contributes to our goal attainment.  Likewise it’s knowing what doesn’t–so we can stop it (which probably contributes to an expense management goal).

Too often we don’t do this, probably because it’s tough and demanding.  It requires us to really think about our strategies and goals.  It requires us to think , at very detailed levels, about what it takes to execute these strategies.  It requires us to test ourselves: what contributes to the strategies, how are things the things we do in our roles impacted by people in completely different functions, and what do we do that impacts people in other functions.

Effective strategy development, cascading the strategies throughout the organization, connecting the dots between functions and our overall goals, enables each person in the organization to know what they need to do this week, this month, this quarter, and this year.

Having these defined enables managers to track, help identify problem areas, work with teams in coaching and correcting those problems.  Rolling this up from the bottom, to the top give leaders the ability to know how well the organization is performing.  It helps them identify course corrections, risks and exposures.

It’s not easy work, but absent this, the ability to execute a strategy, producing the desired results is put at risk.  You’d probably have better odds of guessing heads or tails (that’s 50%) than you have at guessing your ability to achieve your goal.

As a side note, in my journey with my client, I discovered a brilliant tool designed precisely to help top executives, along with everyone in the organization, develop their strategies and goals, cascade them throughout the organization, and understand how to connect the dots throughout the organization.  At the end of the process, each person understand her role in helping the organization execute the strategy, and she can track her progress.

It’s a relatively new SaaS offering called Khorus, it’s simply brilliant in supporting and making the whole process I’ve discussed much more manageable, trackable and achievable.  Be sure to check it out!

(Full disclosure:  I have no connection with Khorus other than talking to them about the tool and their strategy.  I just think we need something to help facilitate this process–otherwise it simply won’t get done!)

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