Innovative Culture + Agile Structure = Strategy Success
Once you have defined your long term intent, the two main pillars that will help sustain your transformational plan and materialize your strategic thoughts, are a Clear Culture and an Aligned Structure.
Thus, revisiting both elements becomes critical before you can embark yourself on the execution of your stratey.
Let´s look at Culture first.
Culture: Instilling the right Culture from the top.
The key point here is to make sure that your company culture is clearly understood and practiced by everyone in the organization, starting with the TOP Executives, who must act as role models for everyone else.
Many executives believe that their job finishes with the definition of the vision and long term goals, after that, the mid-management team is responsible for the implementation of change. Big mistake!
Executing strategies successfully requires a strong commitment and accountability from the highest management levels in the organization.
Without a Culture focused on rewarding joint efforts and employee collaboration across key functions, visibly supported by Senior Executives, you won´t be able to overcome the natural reluctance to change, instrinsic to most human beings.
You can prevent this situation by instilling a Culture that encourages people to act and communicate openly.
Collaboration across teams is also fundamental. Authority cannot sit with the CEO for every single decision, so you must learn how to combine delegation of authority vertically and horizontally (Heads of function + Project Managers)
This type of Culture requires for the Senior Executives to promote, measure and incentivize collaborative behaviors, making it part of everyone´s objectives and bonus plans.
It also requires for the executives and heads of each function to feel comfortable delegating power and authority to project managers. This becomes sometimes the most difficult challenge, particularly for companies organized vertically (Hierarchy)
Culture: Effective communication.
A two way communication flow, top to bottom and vice versa is what makes communication effective. That´s what effective communication means.
A true open-door policy means that you need to tell everyone in the organization about three basic things and then be prepared to listen up and take other people´s comments on board.
- What is going to change?
- Why it is going to change?
- What is in it for you?
- What risks and opportunities you see in it?
Effective communication is a recurrent exercise. It is also about defining a communication plan which moves along the strategy milestones and timelines. That is fflexible, actual and aligned with internal and external factors affecting the strategic plan.
An effective communication plan is one that is frequently refreshed and adjusted to reality. A communication plan design to reach everyone, not just a few tends to be much more effective than siloed communications.
Make sure you include a review of progress Vs strategic plan in every monthly meeting. Keep everybody informed about how things are going and how much progress has been made so far.
Reward and celebrate success and encourage people to think, not just to do.
Structure: Tools and capability assessment.
Another very common mistake, when it comes to strategy execution has to do with the alignment – or lack of it – between business capabilities and strategic goals.
Strategy planning sessions are like a blank piece of paper, it absorbs everything you put on it; turning thoughts into action is a completely different story.
A tool and capability assessment is a simple exercise that can save you a lot of headaches and more importantly, hundreds of thousands of dollars caused by strategy failure.
A realistic assessment of capabilities will help everyone – starting with the executives – understand what needs to improve before the strategic goals can be achieved.
Making sure you have the necessary infrastructure, as well as human and financial resources to develop your strategic plan becomes fundamental if you want to ensure a successful strategy execution.
The tool and capability assessment is intended to help anticipate failure, so that´s an exercise that should happen before the strategy planning phase.
Spending time gathering knowledge about what your organization is or isn´t capable is the best investment any executive can make.
Structure: Aligning dimensions, objectives and portfolios.
When it comes to large corporations, operating across different countries and comprised of multiple business units, we also need to consider multiple strategy dimensions. Division, Function, Customer, Country, depending on how your organization is designed.
Aligning tactical plans across divisions, functions, countries, etc. becomes extremely important if you want to make sure that everyone pushes in the same direction and that the strategy execution – and the result – is consistent across the board.
Objectives and incentives:
Aligning objectives and incentives across all functions is of extreme importance too. Strategy execution is a shared responsibility that touches across all functions; therefore, you will need to avoid infighting caused by misaligned objectives across different teams.
Last but not least, it is also critical that we start to build the house from the bottom up, and not the other way around.
Your strategy is nothing else but a set of initiatives you need to implement in order to get to where you want to be in the future. In other words, your strategy is a portfolio of strategic initiatives.
With that being said, the last thing you want is to put your resources to work on initiatives that don´t belong to the strategy portfolio. Thus, portfolio management and alignment is a key part of the structure alignment process.
Incorporate a portfolio review session to all executive meetings, to ensure that projects are aligned across functions and everyone is focused on the execution of those initiatives that truly matter within the strategic plan.
Continuous review and prioritization of portfolio initiatives can also help you save thousands of dollars in wasted resource. It will also help increase employee engagement and improve talent allocation.
Your Strategy execution plan sits on two pillars, clear Culture and aligned Structure; put the necessary time and effort in making sure both are solid and robust. If you achieve that, you will dramatically increase your chances to succeed.
Good luck with the execution of your strategic plans!
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