Send your strategy over a waterfall – you’ll be glad you did
The objective of any business strategy is to beat the competition and make money doing it. Identifying an effective strategy rests upon three critical building blocks:
- An inspiring vision of the future (where do we want to go)
- The strategic moves required to achieve this future state (how will we get there)
- The strategic priorities you will execute to move forward and build momentum (what actions will we take now)
Even when these building blocks are in place a significant challenge still remains—cascading the strategy deep within your organization.
Leadership teams that fail to cascade their strategy are left to carry the burden of execution themselves, and miss an excellent opportunity to engage employees, tapping into their skills and enthusiasm. Cascading the execution of the company’s strategy takes effort and demands a disciplined culture of accountability, but the following benefits make it truly worth the effort:
Engagement. Involving employees in the execution of strategy helps them invest in the future of your company by contributing to strategic momentum.
Sense of Urgency. Aligning your entire organization to the execution of strategy (including clear accountability and deadlines) creates a sense of urgency regarding the accomplishment of your company’s vision.
Modelling the Way. The accountability and mentoring required to effectively cascade the strategy and ensure its progress provides leaders with an outstanding opportunity to model the behaviors critical to the long-term success of your company.
Building a Leadership Pipeline. Engaging junior leaders in the disciplined process required to execute strategically, allows them to broaden their thinking and readies them for the challenge of more senior leadership roles.
Given these benefits, let’s turn our attention to how this cascading of strategy can work. There are three prerequisites before you can begin:
- The Company Vision. Clearly defined and visible Purpose, Core Values and Envisioned Future (for more on this read Jim Collins article “Building Your Company’s Vision”, and Pat Lencioni’s book “The Advantage”).
- 3-5 Year financial targets and the Strategic Moves that will transform the business.
- 1 Year financial targets, and the Execution Priorities to move your strategy forward.
With these as a foundation, the senior leadership team must then focus on the following four step process every 90 days:
Quarterly Action Priorities. The leadership team sets the direction by identifying a handful of strategic priorities for the next 90 days complete with Committed Outcomes (a definition of success), a champion, and execution plans with names and dates.
Cascade the Right Priorities. Not all priorities should be cascaded to all business units so senior leadership must clarify and communicate the right priorities to the right teams.
Cascading Rhythm. A sequence of meetings must flow in rapid succession (creating a sense of urgency) from the senior leadership quarterly session to the business unit quarterly sessions. Senior leaders must attend the business unit quarterly sessions to clarify the direction, communicate critical messages, and confirm the business units are organized, committed and have execution plans.
Accountability for Execution. During the quarter and leading into the next quarters’ planning rhythm, each business unit must account for their execution success with the senior leadership team doing likewise. A visible dashboard can be most effective for the tracking of progress and identifying hurdles. This accountability must be rigorous (we either achieved our committed outcomes or we didn’t … no equivocating) and transparent. Every employee should know who executed and who did not. This will help drive employee engagement and commitment to results and a culture of accountability.
Once established, this cascading rhythm will drive the organization towards the annual goals, 5-year goals and ultimately to the envisioned future of your company.
This disciplined approach will become the standard for execution in your organization, resulting in the retention and attraction of top talent, and repelling mediocre talent incapable of disciplined execution.
Article by: John Leduc