High-level strategy is as useful to most workers in an organization as a high-flying airliner is to people in a bus queue. The bus passengers may briefly look up and notice the plane and its vapor trail, but, even if it is traveling in the same direction, it cannot possibly help them reach their destination.
Similarly, unless you can bring your strategy down-to-earth it will have no discernible effect on your organization’s performance, or, worse, it will create confusion, paralysis and decline.
It is often said that a strategy doesn’t fail in its formulation but in its implementation. I don’t agree. I believe that in many cases strategy simply falls through the gap between formulation and implementation: it fails in its translation.
Many leadership teams, in their excitement and enthusiasm to turn their strategy into reality, fail to take the necessary steps to ensure that the strategy is sufficiently grounded and that the organization is able and geared up to deliver it.
Here are five steps you must take to translate your strategy for delivery:
- Genuine leadership alignment. Strategy delivery is a team effort and everyone who was involved in its development must have the same way of describing the future of the business and how you will make it happen. Equally important, all the members of the leadership team must show the same, positive body language when talking about your strategy.
- Resource allocation. It always surprises me how few management teams properly and formally allocate resources behind their big strategic initiatives. The allocation of scarce resources is the crunch time for your strategy; it’s where your organizational rubber hits the strategic road. Your strategy is only as effective as your willingness to invest the necessary resources – financial, people or key assets – to help deliver the results you’re after.
- Talent deployment. It’s simple, really. Your best and most able people should be leading the delivery of your key strategic priorities. In many companies however, the best people are seen to be too important to release to the strategy projects. Not only does this reduce your chances of success, it also sends a clear signal to the organization about what you really consider to be important.
- Clear accountabilities. Individual performance, and the collective performance of the top team, should be directly based on delivering your strategy. This requires breaking down your strategic objectives into lower-level objectives that can be owned and delivered by managers and teams from across the business. That way, the strategy is owned and delivered by everyone, and not something that happens when the ‘day job’ has been completed.
- Governance discipline. Without the discipline of follow up and review, little will get done. You must therefore establish regular reviews of progress and performance so that your teams can be rewarded for success and changes to approach can be made where success is proving more elusive. As Bart Sayle, a friend of mine says, there can be no breakthrough without follow-through!
Is your strategy lost in translation? And if so, which of these five steps do you need to take to translate your strategy so that teams from across your business can deliver it effectively?
© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.