At the company's weekly brainstorming session, you propose a new strategy that is received with exceptional positivity. Your team excitedly discusses the idea, thinking synergistically and solving complex problems at every turn. After mulling over the new direction for an hour, it appears that the plan is foolproof, so everyone goes back to their respected offices both inspired and motivated to execute.
A month later, the whole plan has fallen apart. And it's absolutely devastating.
When you work for an evolving business, then you know - coming up with a great strategy is one thing, executing it is a whole other ball of wax. If you're like most CEOs, you probably rank "strategy execution" ahead of 80 other company concerns, including innovation, global security, and top line growth, according to this Harvard Business Review study. And if your company is like three quarters of the organizations in that same study, your team struggles or fails to execute your plans.
Why is that? Personally, I find that it's usually because:
- Each team member is not given clear objectives, goals, and individual success metrics.
- Not everyone is aligned on the big picture goal (or even has all the information they need).
- The team doesn't have a solid way of communicating and collaborating about the project in real time.
Robert Epner, Founder and CEO of ChiefofStaff.com, has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies on strategy execution and suggests that you try the following the next time you have a big idea:
Engage your team meaningfully.
With so many moving parts, the simple question of accountability can get increasingly murky. Remember the truism: if many people are accountable, then no one really is. "But the road to accountability begins with engagement," Epner explains. "Providing your people with unfettered access to the plan, clarity on individual initiatives, and the tools to effectively align, produce, and report, results in engagement that goes far beyond the plan itself."
Each team has its own dynamic. Find a means of communicating digitally that is the most efficient for your team and constantly share information and discoveries. When everybody has all of the information, it not only allows them to accomplish their individual job - but to be infinitely more informed about how to creatively solve problems.
Pay attention to what your plan is telling you not to do.
When you lay out your plan digitally, it becomes clear which resources should be deployed and what your project priorities should be.
Setting clear strategic priorities in all areas is critical. But to effectively align team members behind each new strategy initiative, you must often take the bold step of putting other projects on hold. Epner suggests, "Be clear and decisive about what's being "back-burnered" because a successfully implemented strategic plan often sits as much on a foundation of what you didn't do, as what you did do."
This tactic makes every objective crystal clear to everyone and saves any questions they might have when they're working on their own.
Support round the clock creativity.
Committed, productive people don't turn off their thinking at the end of the workday. And with partners, offices and vendors in multiple time zones, we need to ensure that the tools they need are always at the ready on tablets and other responsive mobile devices.
This way, when someone gets an "aha moment" when they're taking a shower at 10 PM, they'll have all of the information they need to flesh out their idea spur of the moment!
Embrace complexity to gain leverage.
"Ever-increasing organizational complexity can bog down the best strategic plans, and the level of complexity only increases as you find yourself playing three-dimensional chess across different geographies and business lines," says Epner.
Instead of instinctively trying to simplify, digitizing your strategy can help you embrace all aspects of the plan through greater visibility and communication across departments, management levels and relevant partners, allowing seamless coordination, updating, and conflict resolution as it occurs. A transparent planning system acknowledges rather than suppresses critical interdependencies.
So the next time you launch a new strategy, remember that transparency is key. However that is created within your own organization is up to you. Just make sure you set your team up for optimum collaboration and that each team member knows their role in the big picture.