Every organization I meet with has at least one if not more of the following shortcomings in their strategy formation or execution. As I have shared in previous articles, the CEOs are often under the impression that they have an executable strategy. When in reality it is management by the seat of their pants (MBSP). It is totally a reaction to the pressures of the day or the whims of a moment. It may work for a while but it is not sustainable. Recognizing these “killers” of your organization’s strategy should be your first step.
- Lack of Alignment – everyone is driving in different directions
- Lack of Prioritization – too many things to do and all seem important
- Lack of Accountability – not my job and you can’t prove it
- Lack of Communications – I am sure I told you ….
- Lack of Consistency - having discipline and commitment for three weeks does not equal consistency
- Lack of Self-Awareness – look in the mirror and recognize you are the problem
Let’s look at each of the “killers” and define the corrective action.
Lack of Alignment – everyone is driving in different directions. This occurs when the organization has not taken time to set a clear Vision. “Where are you headed?” is the key phrase. And of course it needs to be supported by measurable results. Organizations without an aligned, measured direction are operating without a compass. Setting and measuring and adjusting plans based on the results and market feedback create a well-balanced organization. Sit down with your leadership team and create a 10-year vision document with a clear description of what this organization will “have”, “do” and “be” in the next 10 years.
Lack of Prioritization – too many things to do and all seem important. This is one of the biggest faults I see in organizations and it is two-fold. They struggle with having too many things on their plates and they have no way to determine whether the items are of importance. They are just urgent tasks to be done without respect to their value to the organization. This is what creates the “Busy Syndrome”. It is diagnosed easily by asking someone how they are doing and their only response is “I’m busy”. But the key question is busy doing what? The answer should support a well-defined set of goals which leads to well defined activities or tasks. Another dimension to consider is the volume of work possible in the allotted work hours. This requires estimating a realistic time investment compared to the available hours. There are only so many productive hours that can be worked in a week, month or quarter. The tasks need to fit in that time allotment to avoid overload and/or missed deadlines.
Lack of Accountability – not my job and you can’t prove it. This is often a sticky issue for organizations. There seems to be a “fear” for holding people accountable for their jobs. Often times this stems from the fact that organizations have not adequately defined the roles and hence, have not produced job descriptions for the work. This looseness of job descriptions with lack of measurement places employees/team members/associates in a position of not knowing what is important to the organization. Developing the proper accountability is a means to reinforce the proper work of the important over the interruptions of the urgent. The solution is first defining the job, determining the measures and reviewing this work consistently.
Lack of Communications – I am sure I told you …. The problem with the topic of communications is that we always think we have already done it. The importance of sharing the organization’s direction along with the results good and bad is what aids organizations in developing their culture of openness, trust and transparency. Keeping all the cards close to the vest produces distrust and barriers to an engaged work force. Improve communication by considering your Team Members as “stakeholders” and show them the goals they are working toward along with the results. Pick a few key drivers that they are impacting – Revenue, % Margin, Cost measures – labor, scrap, quality, etc. The Company Meeting is an excellent tool for getting the entire organization on the same page. In an hour timeframe you can establish the goals for the upcoming quarter and share results from the previous quarter.
Lack of Consistency - having discipline and commitment for three weeks does not equal consistency. Not unlike the failed New Year’s resolution, building a successful organization requires a solid and consistent method to insure the good work continues for months, quarters and years. The urge to try new management philosophies and the latest fad only confuses organizations and actually erodes productivity. Finding and then sticking with a process is critical. I have seen many organizations implement a process only to abandon it within weeks of the kick-off once the leadership team falls back into its old habits or something new takes its place. One of my clients refers to this as the “shiny ball disorder” as the leaders of the organization get attracted to the new shiny, latest and greatest. The key is to pick the objective, define the process and then stick with it until you reach the specified outcomes you have set.
Lack of Self-Awareness – look in the mirror and recognize you are the problem. The organization takes its form in the shape of the leader. Yes, it all comes back to the leadership that the CEO provides to the organization. The clarity of the direction, the reinforcement of the proper behaviors, the ability to stay focused on the goals, the ability to build trust with consistent fair actions are all building blocks for a higher performing team. The best leaders know their strengths and their weaknesses. They do not hide behind bluster and fluff. As the saying goes they “walk the talk.” The key is to assess your own strengths and weaknesses and build a team that supports the collective good. I have yet to meet a leader who is truly a master of all. Accepting your own faults and working to build the support structure will allow your team to rise to make good decisions and avoid bottlenecks and poor decisions.
These “killers” are out there and they are undermining the potential long-term success of too many organizations, small and large. They are not insurmountable but they do require a plan and process for eliminating them from your organization. As always, it does take effort to overcome these obstacles. It also takes the first step, a commitment to make a change. The choice is yours. In this period of uncertain economic times the choice to work toward improved performance may be one of surviving or thriving.
Eric Kurjan is the President of Six Disciplines NWO. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to break beyond the status quo. Six Disciplines offers the processes to assess organizational strength, to align your organization, improve prioritization, define employee roles and responsibilities, improve communications and deliver real results. For more information visit www.SixDNWO.com, or call 419-348-1897