Moving Strategy into Execution
Great products and great business strategies, while absolutely necessary, don't guarantee success. That requires something more – effective execution. And that comes from intentionally melding strategy with team behaviors.
It is the team, more than any individual, that will make great things happen for a company. So, it is important for a leadership team to be deliberate and open about working together to execute company strategy in an environment of trust.
The value of integrating strategy with leadership team dynamics – on an equal footing – is clear when we realize that team dysfunction usually is more of a symptom than a problem. The underlying problem often revolves around a lack of clarity surrounding organizational strategy or direction. That makes it difficult to assign the right people to the right tasks. It sows confusion and erodes trust, confidence and morale.
At the same time, it is important to match the skills, temperaments and qualities needed in a leadership team with the company's strategies. That includes looking ahead to the future needs of the company and planning for hiring, training and developing leaders for both today and tomorrow.
- It is important to understand that different skills are needed to lead companies through different times or conditions. This extends to management levels below the top leaders. The directors and managers of a firm often are the hands-on people who actually execute a strategy. It is important to have a succession plan in place to protect that resource. Great leaders recognize these needs and surround themselves with the appropriate talent that can complement their own strengths.
- This plays into a need every team has. Trust. It starts with trusting the competence of the team members, but it extends as well into the environment in which they work together. A successful team needs an environment of continuous learning and safety. This is an environment that values raising questions and in which the team and team members can be described as both humble and confident.
- Companies that move beyond good to great do so with motivated, inspired employees who know, understand and buy into the company's vision and mission. That requires effective communication. Effective organizations are super clear about who they are and where they are headed, and are able to articulate that in a simple message that people can remember. They also are clear about decision-making filters, and communicate them throughout the organization, so employees understand the criteria that will be used to make critical decisions.
- Communication within the company is more critical than ever. The speed of change and the accessibility of social media make it necessary to drive communications ever deeper into the organization to avoid viral disasters.
- It is important as well to connect what employees do to company strategy and vision. Never miss an opportunity to frame a discussion so that employees can see how what they do furthers the company's goals. Knowing that what one does is important to accomplishing identifiable goals is a strong boost for morale. And that boosts performance.
Know, too, that even a well-run organization can go adrift over time. New leadership, new team members, new products, marketplace changes, technology changes and many other things all can eat away at alignment among senior leader team members. Everyone assumes they understand the mission, but that understanding may have shifted among many in the group. It is up to senior leadership to ensure that the focus of the team, and the company, stays where it's needed. The team must revisit and evaluate company vision and direction.
In part, this means that meetings must not be allowed to degenerate into reactionary events in which team members become firefighters dealing with the problem of the day. At the same time overzealous attempts to treat everyone fairly, or equally, must not eat into the time that needs to be dedicated to reviewing strategies and visions and in putting together plans to communicate and execute them. The senior leadership team must set aside time, not just whatever time is left at the end of a meeting, to address these issues on a regular basis.
In the final analysis, a mediocre strategy executed well trumps a brilliant strategy executed poorly.