There are potential pitfalls all along the strategy execution path, but some have the potential to derail your efforts before you’re even putting marker to flip chart, brainstorming your first objective. Outlined below are three culprits we’ve seen several times.
- “Well, I read the book, and it made sense.”
“Why are we implementing OKR or Balanced Scorecard, and why now?” is the first question you should ask yourself before embarking on this path. If you answer, “Well, I read (fill in the bestselling book) and it seemed to make sense,” then you have a problem. Reading a book and having the message resonate with you is not a valid reason for embarking on any organizational change effort. Your first and greatest obligation when launching a strategy execution program is to share a powerful and meaningful change story to your teams. To do so you must go above and beyond trite, tired, and oft-repeated lines such as “We need to work together more effectively” (everyone knows that already). Instead, weave a broader narrative that outlines how excelling in execution allows you to get closer to customers, offering solutions to their problems, or how strategy execution tools allow everyone the chance to demonstrate their contribution to overall success.
- “Over to you, Paul …” syndrome
Our second sign that your implementation is in trouble is less theoretical and more personal for one of us (Paul). “Over to you, Paul” describes a situation that any consultants reading this can surely relate to, and probably dislike as much as I do. Here’s the scenario: I’m scheduled to run a training workshop, usually my first interaction with a broader audience at the client’s location, at let’s say 9:00 a.m. By 9:05 everyone who is going to attend has arrived and, just as I’m expecting the CEO to provide a rousing change story and then introduce me to share the nitty-gritty of how strategy execution can bring that narrative to life, he or she looks at me, and says, “OK.” As in “You can start now.” No introduction of the concept, why everyone is sacrificing their valuable time, no introduction to this stranger at the front of the room. Nothing. This of course relates to the broader change story theme outlined in our first sign. What kind of a message is this executive sending, when he can’t take five minutes to kick off what is supposedly a critical initiative for the organization?
- No champion
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a CEO willing to take the time and effort to craft a persuasive change story, he or she cannot single-handedly summon the will to make strategy execution a success. Every executive needs a partner; someone who will run the program logistically and philosophically: the in-house subject matter expert. We call this person the “champion” and their role can make or break your implementation. Someone needs to be steering the ship, and that person is the champion. Sure, it will require an investment of that person’s time, but if you’re not willing to make that investment, you’re probably not ready for a successful implementation.
Organizational change and strategy execution are hard enough as it is. The last thing you want to do is handcuff yourself before you even get started.