Focus on and persistence with the implementation of a strategy is often lost amongst other pressing issues – handling crises, problem-solving when things break down, protecting oneself in a sometimes politicised environment and dealing with the digital deluge. Frazzled managers and supervisors make sporadic attempts to get organised and to stay on top of things, but seemingly continue to suffer under the weight of organisational “noise” and fairly meaningless activity, whilst the real goals are not being achieved. Many CEO’s complain about the seeming inability of senior managers to get the job done, but these same CEO’s, through their inactivity of addressing the bureaucracy, unnecessary systems and debilitating politics, are reinforcing dysfunctionality within the organisation. As a result, leaders flirt with the strategy at best, but usually ignore it and just attempt to get through the day as unscathed as possible.
When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequently quoted reason is that the CEO’s strategy was deficient. The strategy by itself, however, is not often the cause of failure. Strategies most often fail because they are not implemented well. Things that are supposed to happen don’t happen. Energy that should have been applied to strategic imperatives finds its outlet elsewhere. People within the organisation are side-tracked by other pressing issues – as a result, neglect of the fundamentals sets in.
Strategy implementation is a systematic process of rigorous application involving role clarification, answering the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘when’, following through with tenacity and ensuring accountability. It is about exposing reality and working on it. It is about making sure that priorities are well articulated, allocated appropriately and measured – everyone should just have a few. Employees at many levels within the organisation frequently have to make trade-offs – there’s competition for resources, ambiguity over decision rights and unclear working relationships and reporting lines. Without thinking through priorities clearly, people can get bogged down in the battle of who gets what and why. The strategy gets muddied and employees are left confused.
The following tenets are important for successful strategy implementation:
- A strategy that works out its focus in departmental objectives – every department and its employees need to have absolute clarity on the expected behaviours relating to successful implementation.
- Appropriate measures need agreement and adoption – the proposed course of action and related targets need buy-in from everyone and real-time score-boards need to be visual and referred to constantly.
- Performance management needs to tie into the strategy – departmental and individual key performance areas should relate directly to the potential achievement of the strategy. Frequent discussions about performance improvement ideas should be facilitated.
- Individual giftedness and skill should be recognised and utilised – getting employees to answer the question ‘how can you contribute your very best skills and abilities towards the achievement of our strategy?’ will reinforce value and get people involved with what they like doing.
- Progress and quality evaluation needs to be regular and constant – short focused discussions involving everyone and soliciting their ideas for improvement keep momentum.
- Accountability should be emphasised – empowerment and accountability go hand-in-hand. Employees need to understand the relationship between accountability and use of company resources, application of energy, focus, etc.
- Frequent communication of success and achievement in relation to goals should be offered – look for examples of success, good behaviour and outstanding results and celebrate the same with the organisation. Celebrating success gives a clear message to the organisation about focus and expectation.
Focus is essential for strategy implementation – with focus, energy is applied appropriately. Focus is not automatic, but structured over time through clarity, role definition, understanding regarding contribution expectations and celebrating the value that everyone brings to the achievement of strategic milestones. Focus will help your organisation strategy succeed.