Strategy or implementation, which one is my problem? (continued)

Last time we spoke about the importance of identifying whether strategy or implementation is at fault if the lowering tide has exposed the naked swimmer in your Business (in Warren Buffet's words).

Too often we see businesses blame strategy and keep changing it, all the while missing the point. I spoke to a CEO once who was onto his 12th organisational structure in 3 years! On the flip side there have been some very well known examples of businesses stubbornly following the same strategy right over a cliff - Kodak is a famous case study of extreme denial.

So it goes without saying it is critical to understand which one, strategy or implementation, sits at source.

In our last post, we shared some reflection questions to test your strategy. Here are some reflection questions to assess the implementation.

  • How clear are roles/responsibilities?:  My experience is that task/decision making separation is usually very clear across functions but can get blurry between layers. For example, the separation between Sales and Operations is probably clear, but how clear is the separation between the Team Leader and the team members? If you have a culture of upward delegation/rescuing this becomes very blurry and accountability becomes difficult when implementation goes awry.
  • How accountable is your culture? Do people take their promises seriously and are there consequences to patterns of broken promises?:  I asked my 15 year old son recently to clean his room, organise the study and tidy up the garage. “Sure Dad, I’ll get it done this weekend” he nonchalantly said as he shot another bad guy on the latest XBox game every teenager is playing. I asked him to pause his game and think about his commitment because if the promise was broken he would lose his Xbox for a month.  He quickly took the empty promise back. The moment a promise becomes an ‘aspiration’ rather than a non-negotiable, implementation discipline is fundamentally undermined.
  • How capable is your team?:  If a change in strategy requires a different skill and capability, how equipped is your team? Many high tide businesses got really good at controlling growth. Low-tide businesses need to remember (or re-learn) how to drive growth. I was talking to a CEO who was reflecting on how, in the last year, top performers in his business have become under-performers very quickly. Technology/competitive disruption means many businesses have had to go to market proactively rather than waiting for the orders to come in. Order-takers are a very different skill to rain makers.

If the tide has turned in your world, the first step is to get really clear on what needs to shift – strategy or implementation.

To hear more on this topic, come along to our next business breakfast.

Focus: Getting leaders out of the trenches. Leaders who don’t have time to lead are a common feature of growing businesses. Ivan can fix that.

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