Strategy Failing Because of Leadership?

Strategy Failing Because of Leadership?

Mike Tyson

Regardless of what type of strategy planning system your organization utilizes, there is one thing you can be assured of;  not everything will go as planned.  Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson put it bluntly, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower stated it like this“…the very definition of “emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.”

 Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower

While strategy can fail for any number of reasons, it is the leadership of an organization that bears the responsibility for ensuring the successful execution of an organization’s strategy. Another Eisenhower quote simply states, “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” 

There are a number of reasons why leaders are unsuccessful. In some cases, leaders are simply out of touch or living in the past. They have failed to stay abreast of the changing times in a changing world. Other leaders may have delegated responsibility to incompetent staff or have allowed “venomous” individuals to be able to exert too much power and influence within the organization leading to chaos, dissent and dysfunction. Another problem may be incompetence at the top level of the organization based on the “Peter Principle,” where people advance up the chain of command until they reach their level of incompetence. Finally a fourth area that can severely hamper an organization is organizational structure and bureaucracy.

Effective leadership starts with an individual in a leadership role who is effective in delegating responsibilities and empowering employees with the ability to accomplish what needs to be done. Leaders must inspire their subordinates to action, challenging them to perform at the highest possible level and developing future leaders for the organization. Simultaneously, the effective leader will also be building a culture of trust. Outstanding leaders not only are able to accomplish these things, but also create a culture with a positive view of change and accountability.

Granted, a leader cannot do it alone. He or she must build a team of individuals who are aligned for the purpose of obtaining organizational excellence and achieving the organizational goals. Effective leaders listen and observe; they solicit honest feedback and recognize what the healthy heartbeat of their organization looks like. They are not micro-managers, nor dictators, but rather have the ability to build and encourage teamwork and creativity. Leaders must learn to exercise discretion in selecting future leaders and managers in the organization and should also not be afraid to address issues and individuals detrimental to the success of the organization.

The fact is strategy often does fail. Sometimes it may be the right people were not included in the effort, or perhaps the goals set forth in the strategy were unrealistic to begin with. Maybe the organization lacks accountability, honesty and is resistant to change. Whatever the reason, leadership, in one way or another bears the responsibility for the failure. Often, the tendency is to shift the blame to lower levels of the organization, but in truth, strategy failure ultimately falls on the executive level of leaders in the organization.

The Nine Steps to Success™ methodology for building a balanced scorecard is one approach that supports the empowerment and delegation of responsibility throughout the organization. It utilizes a healthy cross-section of employees from throughout the organization, obtains their commitment and buy-in and fosters active and open communication through all levels of the organization. As a result, silos begin to disappear, employees become engaged, energized and responsive to change. Communication improves and the organization moves towards alignment and becoming an organization of continual improvement.

For more information on the Nine Steps Balanced Scorecard process or to see how it could work for your organization, contact info@strategymanage.com

 

Sources:

Business Strategy – The Art, Science and Craft of Decision-Making: Failure of Strategies, Retrieved from: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Business_Strategy/Failure_of_Strategy

53 Insightful Dwight D. Eisenhower Quotes that Are Timeless. Retrieved from: https://quotes.thefamouspeople.com/dwight-d-eisenhower-1270.php

Organizations from Hell: When Leadership Fails, Ronald E Riggio, Ph.D., 2019, Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200906/organizations-hell-when-leadership-fails

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Mike Tyson Explains One of His Most Famous Quotes, Retrieved from: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/fl-xpm-2012-11-09-sfl-mike-tyson-explains-one-of-his-most-famous-quotes-20121109-story.html

 

 

How to Keep Lettuce Crunchy and Other Strategy Execution Lessons

How to Keep Lettuce Crunchy and Other Strategy Execution Lessons

I learned two lessons in college that I still think about – one in the kitchen and one as a strategy execution consultant. My professor claimed during a cell biology lesson that if you leave iceberg lettuce in water for about 20 minutes its cells expand as they soak up the water. He said that many chefs knew that soaking lettuce in cold water made it seem fresher and crunchier but few understood that it was because the cells were packed to the bursting point.

I went home for the holidays eager to share this new lesson with my mother. This is where I learned the consulting lesson.

My mother had been taught that in order to keep salad crisp, you should throw a slice of bread into the salad as you are making it and then pull the bread out just before serving. The thinking was that the bread soaked up the excess moisture that would otherwise lead to wilting.

When I shared my professor’s theory with her, I assumed that we would immediately begin saving a nickel per month due to all that saved bread. Instead I was surprised to find that my mother was not about to change the way she made salad because of something her son’s biology professor said, not even after I showed her that the lettuce didn’t wilt.

Strategy execution is about transformation. It is about the systematic implementation of the changes needed to move an organization forward. Unfortunately, as you try to convince people to change the way they do things, many of them react exactly like my mother did.

The change management field is built around several general principles in how to manage people through change: thoroughly communicate how/why/what change is happening, look for the “what’s-in-it-for-me” for employees, communicate using two-way dialog, remove barriers to change, celebrate success, describe a “burning platform”, etc. Strategy execution specialists bring a few more key approaches to these basic doctrines.

Engage Around the Big Picture. A simple business case (e.g. this initiative will help us improve process efficiency and lower operating costs) often isn’t enough. To embrace change it helps to understand how a particular initiative is aligned with the overall strategy of the organization (e.g. we want to bring low cost healthcare solutions to those suffering from an ailment. If we can improve this process, the solution could be better, more consistent, and cheaper than anyone else in the market). Employees will be far more motivated to change if they believe in the strategy. Strategy professionals typically have the skills needed to articulate and communicate that story.

Make Strategy Everyone’s Job. Strategy is a team sport. Too many strategy professionals think that because they are good at it they should do all of the work themselves. But good strategy execution relies on others to implement. I can tell my mother that this is a better way or (if she were an employee) order her to follow a new process, but as long as she can dismiss the idea as an outsider’s, change will be painful. Good strategy execution professionals understand that their job is to facilitate a consensus around a shared vision rather than simply dream up a vision in a vacuum.

Pick Your Battles. Strategy is about focus and strategic thinkers should be good at prioritizing. The worst thing you can do is overwhelm employees with dozens of major changes at the same time and then when things go badly decide that it’s not worth the trouble. Better is to pick the most important changes and implement them at a pace that the organization can handle. Then think through and communicate the timeline, action steps, and resource changes that will happen as the change is rolled out.

Facilitate a Sense of Inevitability. The weakest client outcomes in my career happened when there was uncertainty about whether or not the senior-most executives were on board. A well-meaning strategic planning director that isn’t visibly supported by the executive team will struggle to move an organization forward even if they do everything else right. On the other hand, if the executive team has thoroughly and repeatedly communicated that this change is going to happen with or without you, the inertia of inevitability will convince people to jump on the bandwagon even if other change management mistakes are made.

PS: Our Balanced Scorecard Saved The U.S. Army $26 Million

PS: Our Balanced Scorecard Saved The U.S. Army $26 Million

I was working with an Army command at Ft. Sam Houston this week and had invited a special guest – Scott Hencshel – to address the group regarding the organizational challenges of implementing a balanced scorecard system within Army.  (Scott’s command is also stationed at Ft. Sam Houston –  Army Medical Department Center & School (AMEDDC&S), an Institute “Award for Excellence” winner.) As Scott was wrapping up, someone asked a final question, “What was the biggest benefit that AMEDDC&S realized after implementing its strategic balanced scorecard?”  Scott talked about alignment, focus, and data-driven decision making.  Then as he was making his way to the door he turned back and said, “Oh yeah, we immediately saved the Army $26 million.” Say what?!?! AMEDDC&S is where the U.S. Army educates and trains all of its medical personnel – over 27,000 soldiers. One of the strategic measures on AMEDD’s balanced scorecard is “attrition rates.”  Before the scorecard was implemented, it was commonly believed that discipline issues were the primary reason for soldiers not completing their training programs – because resolution of these discipline issues were what consumed everyone’s time.  Once the scorecard was implemented, attrition was measured more thoroughly and two discoveries were made:
  1. Attrition was MUCH higher than originally thought.  The traditional calculation was flawed and attrition was actually over 34%.  That means 1/3 of those entering the medical training programs would “drop-out” thereby wasting the Army’s investment in their training.
  2. Academic performance, not discipline, was discovered to be the primary reason for attrition.
So as the scorecard team delved further, they looked for root causes of poor academic performance resulting in attrition incidents.  They discovered that a major cause was a lack of communication between the Brigade leadership and the AMEDDC&S faculty.  Students in the medical training program were being assigned Brigade duties that prevented them from having proper opportunities to study and prepare for classes and exams.   A prime example was students falling asleep during final exams due to having served Brigade guard duty the night before. Once the communications issues were corrected, overall attrition rapidly dropped from 34% to below 20%…thereby saving the U.S. Army $26 million. PS:  Did I mention that I have the best job in the world?!?  It is extremely rewarding to hear about results like this. For more examples of break-through performance, we invite you to read “The Institute Way: Simply Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.
Free 5-Minute Assessment