Too Hard Basket: How to Execute Your Strategy with a Customer Mindset
Have you heard the story of the janitor at NASA responding to President Kennedy? He said that his job was putting a man on the moon. That is exactly what we are after - a connection between everyone’s role and the organisational mission.
I want to keep this blog simple today because strategy is often seen to be too complex. The truth is – it’s not. Yes, it takes some time and thinking but if you get the basics right, then you are on the right track to successfully implementing your strategy.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is the strategy’s role?
Your strategy should bring your organisation together around a common purpose and provide clarity on what is important to delivering your purpose. If you get this right, it will foster engagement across your teams where each individual knows how they are contributing to the bigger mission, thus creating a sense of belonging and personal purpose.
Have you heard the story of the janitor at NASA responding to President Kennedy? He said that his job was putting a man on the moon. That is exactly what we are after – a connection between everyone’s role and the organisational mission. This story occurred in 1961 and we still can’t get this right in so many of our organisations today…60 years later. How is this possible?
This is a story that often starts with popping the champagne. You have spent months (potentially even years in some organisations) working on your strategy. Your strategy is going to provide the direction and clarity of what is important over the next 3 – 5 years. You’re excited! After popping the champagne, you realise it is time to implement and make this strategy a reality. But, let me tell you… we are popping the champagne too early! There is much work to do and, without focus, we will end up back where we started.
Why most organisations fail to implement their strategies, you ask? These are some common failures that I have seen across organisations:
- The strategy is hard to communicate in a way that resonates with the people doing the work
- The goal posts keep changing on what you’re trying to achieve…leading to confusion
- The strategy is not actually measured or its too complicated to visualise what success looks like
- It disappears. After so much work, people just keep doing what they were doing before with limited change
- The strategy is designed without really understanding what your customers and employees need and, instead, focusing on what your execs think they need
This happens because we have missed three critical components in strategy implementation that lead to success and engagement. My secrets to successful implementation are:
- Get everyone involved. Strategy is for everyone and not just the executive team
- Make it inspiring, but achievable: Design a strategy that gets people excited and make a plan to get there
- Define your measurement system and stick to it: Find a measurement system that enables you to track the day to day back to your long-term vision
- But how do we actually do that? Here is how we help our clients when it comes to strategy work
Strategy is for everyone. I mean it. If you want an organisation to move or rally behind a cause, a purpose and direction then everyone needs to understand why and be able to provide feedback (if you don’t believe, just look at Nasa’s janitor). At the end of the day, you want your team to be able to make decisions knowing that what they are doing is aligned back to the overall mission of the organisation. It should be really clear. Like putting a man on the moon – they should be able to get it in one sentence.
A key tip I would offer is getting your team involved in the strategy building process, understand their inputs, their roles, their thoughts, where the organisation has been and where they would like to see it going. You will understand their language and what is going to motivate them to your cause and what needs to change.
Then continue to engage, communicate back to everyone that you have heard, what you are doing about it and why. It may take time, but it is better to engage than to end up in a vacuum of information.
I am also not suggesting about doing this with the elite groups. Where possible, engage everyone. When you have something a little more concrete, run sessions where the leaders talk teams through a common room (either physical or virtual) and enable people to be able to present their ideas and feedback. The more information that you can get and synthesise, the more your people will understand their role in success. This gives you the greatest chance of making it stick.
1. Make it inspiring, but achievable: Design a strategy that gets people excited and make a plan to get there
Your strategy needs to inspire people to come and work every day. It needs to motivate your people to get out of their comfort zone and start doing things differently to achieve different results. Here is where leadership teams start to run workshops and presentations about where the organisation is heading and where they see the company in 3 to 5 years.
Once you know where you are heading, you need to be able to break it down into meaningful components to measure both progress and success. This may look different depending on what your strategy and your organisational purpose is. At Three6, we are passionate about linking the strategy to the customer experience and this is critical to understanding the capabilities, projects and processes that are required to execute it.
This becomes your backbone and, from here, you can start to meaningfully understand what is going to be delivered over the next 1, 3 and 5 years.
2. Define your measurement system and stick to it: Find a measurement system that enables you to track the day to day back to your long-term vision.
As a leadership team, this is the critical component. Metrics on an individual project or program’s success must link back to the organisational objectives, with the relevant people being asked to talk to how they are delivering the overall mission. Often, we get lost in individual projects and forget about what we are heading towards. This long-term vision broken down is essential and your measurement system needs to enable these conversations.
Things won’t always go to plan. But having the right conversations is integral to pivoting the work and achieving your overall strategy.
Strategy is exciting, but the best part is getting the execution right and having an organisation that is motivated to make it happen. Want to discuss more about how we implement strategy or how we can help you to, click here and we will be in touch!