Executing Strategy: Different Approaches to Consider

By Amanda Creter

We have already discussed strategy and some of the popular strategic techniques. Picking a strategy that speaks to you is the first step. But where do you go from there? Having a strategy in place isn’t enough. You need to be able to effectively execute that strategy to create long term success for your business, and most business owners will admit that execution is their number one struggle.

                So what is the key to business execution? Like strategy, there is no right answer. Many forms of business execution exist and each one has its place. Here are a few noteworthy examples to help you decide which best aligns with your specific strategy.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Covey, Huling, McChesney

·         Discipline 1 – Focus on the Wildly Important: In the simplest terms, the more you try to split your focus, the less you will end up accomplishing. This is often a hard task for leaders to practice, because they want to try and do it all. But to be successful, you need to focus on that wildly important goal and pursue avenues that are in line with helping you achieve that goal.

·         Discipline 2 – Act on the Lead Measures: This discipline focuses on the notion that not every action your team performs will be equal in importance. This is why the first discipline is so important. With a clear goal in mind, you can more easily identify which measures require your attention. Instead of focusing on Lag Measures (things that have already happened), you can then focus on Lead Measures (high impact items that need to be focused on within your company to achieve your goal and fix your Lag Measures).

·         Discipline 3 – Keep a Compelling Scoreboard: To maintain motivation you need to engage with your team in a way that drives them to succeed. When they know the “score” and whether or not they are “winning or losing” the level of performance and productivity will rise. The key to keeping score however, is that you allow them to create the scoreboard so that they can instantly and easily know their place on it.

·         Discipline 4 – Create a Cadence of Accountability: The first three disciplines set you up for execution, but it isn’t until the fourth discipline that you truly begin to execute. You do this by establishing a system of accountability. Unless your team is holding each other accountable, and being consistent with that accountability, you will not be able to achieve your goals. They have to know that they are being held to a certain standard, and that they can in return ask their teammates to hold to that standard as well. With regular accountability check ins, your team with be invested in achieving the goals you have set forth.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

·         The People Process: Focuses on looking into the future, instead of in the past or present. Most companies look at employees and evaluate whether or not they can do the job they are currently doing. According to Bossidy and Charan, you should be looking at employees and evaluating whether or not they can do the job of tomorrow. The types of assessments most companies have in place look at past performance, but don’t effectively asses future capabilities.

·         The Strategy Process: Are the people you have employed capable of executing your strategy? With an effective skills matrix in place, you can address the lack of certain areas of skill within your company before they compromise strategy.

·         The Operations Process: Most strategic visions require that skill levels change and advance over time. By having a system in place where employees can easily access learning materials to increase their skills, you help them achieve skill milestones that aid in your strategic objective and timeline.

The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage by Robert Kaplan and David Norton

·         Stage 1 – Develop the Strategy: This stage is heavily focused on conventional strategy. First you need to clearly outline your mission statement, values, and vision. From there, start to do an analysis, such as a SWOT analysis, on your competitors and market trends. Completing analysis’s like these will give you the information critical to developing your strategy.

·         Stage 2 – Plan the Strategy: Once you have developed your strategy, then transform your objectives and goals into short term plans of action. Create a plan, identify gaps, and implement your strategy accordingly.

·         Stage 3 – Align the Organization with the Strategy: Once you have a clear strategic plan in place based off of your mission, values, and vision, make sure you have articulately conveyed them to your team. If they do not see your dream and understand it the way you do, they cannot effectively implement strategy to help achieve those goals.

·         Stage 4 – Plan Operations: Align your strategy with the most important aspects of your business. Do not waste your time or your resources improving aspects of your business that are not absolutely vital to your strategy. Instead focus on the core processes that will help facilitate stronger strategic and operational ties.

·         Stage 5 – Monitor and Learn: Do not just sit back and assume that everyone understood your vision and is now executing strategy the way you desire. Check in frequently to get status updates and feedback. This way you learn of a problem in the strategic operation early on, and can address it as soon as possible.

·         Stage 6 – Test and Adapt the Strategy: Be pliable. At some point along the way your strategy will need to adapt. As you grow, your goals will begin to change, which will require a change in strategy. Over time you may also see a change in your market, whether it be consumer or competition, and to remain successful you will need to be able to adapt to that change. If your strategy fails early on, try a different tactic. Strategy is not a perfect science, and will require trial and error.

These are only a handful of the examples of Strategic Execution out there. No strategy is the same, and therefore no execution will be the same. Do your research, and create a strategic execution plan based on what you are trying to achieve. Many struggle with strategic execution, so don’t be surprised if you don’t succeed immediately. The key is to keep adjusting and adapting until you do.

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Lead Well...5 Areas Great Leaders Master

By Amanda Creter

     Whether you are just beginning your journey into Leadership, or whether you have been leading a team for a while now, a great leader strives to set themselves apart from the rest. These leaders attract and retain the best talent. But what is it about the great leaders out there that makes them stand out from the rest? And how do you take yourself, and your business to the next level where great leaders reside? Here are 5 areas they have come to master that set them apart from the crowd.

Made to Inspire: All of the great leaders are able to inspire their people. They have a goal in mind, a vision they want to bring to fruition, and they convey that vision to those linked to them in such a way that they see it too. The ability to inspire your staff with the same fire and passion you have, will make it easier to achieve those dreams. Many working towards the same goal that believe in it as well is the foundation of success.

Great Communicators: You may know exactly what your goal is and how you need to go about achieving it. But if you can’t effectively communicate it to your team, how are they supposed to know the direction you want them to be taking? You may think you are communicating effectively, but that isn’t always the case. If tasks are being completed the way you envisioned them being done, then you may have already mastered the ability to communicate successfully. If you think they may be having a hard time understanding what you are communicating, be frank and ask them. If you can’t communicate your vision, then you can’t inspire your people.

Know When and How to Delegate: If you have mastered inspiring and communicating with your team, then it’s time to delegate the workload. Your entire operation will run more smoothly if you can hand out tasks to your team and know that you have been able to communicate how you want them done, and they see your vision clearly enough to execute those tasks without needing to be micromanaged or having their hand held. Great leaders are not afraid to take risks by allowing their team the chance to shine. “At Lucasfilm, superboss George Lucas trusted his team to define the characters, set designs, and sounds of the original Star Wars movie. He didn’t micromanage. But he did check in periodically and personally to test employees’ inventions against his vision. Because he was so clear about what really mattered — his vision — he could more easily cede control over all else” Harvard Business Review

Stay Flexible: Sometimes, aspects of your vision may not be attainable. Instead of stubbornly sticking to your plan that isn’t working, be open minded to other ideas. Tweaking parts of your business or plan that isn’t working doesn’t mean admitting failure. It’s knowing when it’s time to be flexible so that you can succeed. FUBU CEO Daymond John said “One of the biggest myths is that good business leaders are great visionaries with dogged determination to stick to their goals no matter what. It’s nonsense. The truth is, leaders need to keep an open mind while being flexible, and adjust if necessary. When in the startup phase of a company, planning is highly overrated and goals are not static. Your commitment should be to invest, develop and maintain great relationships.”

Keep it Positive: Things are going to go wrong. Show me one example of a business or team that has had smooth sailing every step of the way? Chances are you can’t, it’s not the way life works. You will have set backs, and when that happens, you will have a team looking to you to show them the way. Lead them by example. It’s how you handle the downs that will set you apart. Keeping your employees positive is essential to productivity. So if this means the occasional office treat (like bringing lunch in), or taking everyone out one Friday a month, do it. A happy team is a healthy team, and if you go out of your way to stay positive and spread that positivity, they will notice.

     Leverage the attributes you currently have that Great Leaders are known for and work on those that need attention to get you to the next level of leadership. You, your employees, and your business will be happy you did. 

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