Every company has a story – where it’s been, where it is today, and where it wants to go tomorrow. A strategy typically serves as this “story map” for the future. Leaders spend a great deal of time creating the perfect strategy or the right map. Yet they’ll admit that they struggle the most in executing that strategy. If the purpose of strategy is to change the way people act and think, they’re often stuck in slow gear.
The facts are so sobering that it seems most companies rarely get their strategies out of “Park.” For example, 90% of all strategies fail to meet their growth goals, 70% of all change initiatives fail due to people issues (Ben Zoghi, PhD, Texas A&M University), and more than 75% of all workers are disengaged (Gallup Management Journal, June 10, 2004). So why do we as leaders accept these realities? What is it costing us? What can we do about it?
There are three things leaders can do to bring a strategy to life with, for, and through people.
1. Make sure everybody understands why we’re doing this. What’s the context? The rationale? The urgency? Without this understanding, any strategy works – all about equally as poorly. A total immersion in the whys is a required to fully engage the heads and hearts of people.
2. Translate the strategy into the critical drivers of the business – more important, drivers that people can touch, change, and monitor. What levers will keep the strategy on track and get us the intended results?
3. Help each person see where they fit in, how what they do contributes to the drivers, and how each person’s work makes a difference.
So it’s not the strategy – it’s how to set the context, make the content practical, and then redirect the actions within the realm of each person’s role and responsibility that really matters. That’s the hard work, and that’s really why execution has become so much more important than strategy.