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Execution Drives Your Strategy To Results


I recently led a session for a thriving, mid-sized company based in the midwest. On the surface, they had it all together.

The leadership team had articulated a strong, clear vision and translated it into four or five concrete goals for each department.

The problem?

No one below management had a clue what their bosses had in mind.

“How effectively have you cascaded these goals down into your organization?” I asked.


“If I talked to your frontline team members, what would they know about their role in your strategy?”

Sheepish looks.

“They wouldn't know anything,” one department head eventually offered. “We haven't shared them at all.”

No wonder 75-90% of strategy fails at the execution stage.

I’ll often have clients do a “five-on-five” activity. The leader writes down the top five goals for each team member, and then I ask the staff to write down their top five goals. Theoretically, they should match perfectly. But in reality? They never do. Most times, we’re lucky to get two the same.

Businesses are complex and challenging organisms, but strategy execution almost always fails for simple reasons, with communication breakdown at the top of the list. Conversely, if you nail your fundamentals, you’ll be very likely to succeed. I’m talking about things like:

  • Communicating the goals to everyone in the organization regularly and repeatedly

  • Ensuring each team member understands how they contribute to the bigger goals

  • Focusing on the things that create value and stop doing those activities that don’t

  • Putting the right people in the right roles with the right capabilities to execute your strategy

And then just lather, rinse, repeat!

In my last post, I wrote about why you need a solid strategy now, more than ever, how, in the wake of the cataclysm of COVID, you need to take stock, reassess. Odds are, your competitive landscape has changed. Your customers have new wants and needs. What’s your opportunity? How do you position yourself to create a competitive advantage? I advised you to start by talking to your customers and building your strategy from there.

Today, we’re switching gears from why to how. This post lays out some of the basic blocking and tackling to get back on track for the last stretch of 2021. We've got a month until the end of the year, and it's a prime opportunity to refocus, get intentional and get strategic again.

Communications Culture

“We showed them on PowerPoint. I don't understand why they don't get it.”

Very often, leaders blame their team members for not knowing the strategy or goals. That’s not fair or productive. One of the most important jobs of a leader is to communicate the company’s direction to the team. But in most organizations, there’s a gulf between the ideas at the top and the understanding in your workers. Your strategy messaging needs to be consistent, and you need to repeat it–a lot. One all-staff session and a PowerPoint isn’t going to cut it.

You can’t drive strategy to results if people don't know what the plan is and their roles in it. Effective communication was always important; now, it’s paramount to survival. Here’s a quick test to see if you need to amplify your communications:

  • Can your team members give you a brief description of how your company distinguishes itself?

  • Can they tell you the top two or three things your company must get better at to succeed?

  • Can they tell you the critical three to five things they must accomplish to contribute to the execution of the strategy?

Not only will this give your team clarity, but it’s great for culture. It lets them know they are part of something bigger than themselves and have an essential contribution to make.

Foster Focus & Alignment

Executing your strategy requires that the efforts of everyone on your team be aligned to the strategy. What goals, critical priorities and actions will get you there together? To create focus and alignment, consider:

  • What new goals do my team members need to achieve the latest results we seek?

  • What new performance drivers (the critical tasks, behaviours and actions) are most important in reaching our goals?

  • How will we measure them? What scorecards or tools do we need to track our performance?

  • What should we stop doing because it doesn’t optimize the value we provide?

You’ll get results by translating strategy into goals and identifying the actions most likely to achieve them.

Right, right, right

Success post-pandemic is going to look different from before. That implies your team will need some new capabilities. How do you ensure you’re setting your team up to be successful in this new environment? It’s crucial to put the right people in the right roles with the right capabilities to execute your strategy.

  • What capabilities do you need in your organization as learning needs and methods evolve at a lightspeed pace?

  • How are you recruiting and selecting the talent you need for today’s and future needs, not last year’s (or last century’s) requirements?

  • How intentionally are you re-skilling the members of your team to be effective in this rapidly changing environment?

Start Small In Get in Gear, I wrote about the seven key areas that drive strategy to results. When you align those seven gears, you get better results.

But here’s the thing: you don’t need to do all seven at once. That’s a recipe for overwhelm and burnout, and we’ve had more than enough of those during this pandemic.

Focus on one or two at a time. Once you get those gears running smoothly, you can turn your attention to your next squeaky wheel.

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