Why is it so difficult to get new projects up and running? We often work for months on putting plans into practice, but not a lot changes in this period. What’s the reason for this?
Employees aren’t stupid, lazy or obstructive. The problem is just that they are busy. They are busy with what they call their “proper jobs”.
Think of all the strategies you’ve seen fail. Why did they die a death? Did they collapse, moaning loudly, or just gradually run out of puff? Were they slowly suffocated by the daily routine?
The culprit is the enormous amount of energy that is needed just to keep a business up and running, to do the daily tasks that keep what we call the “hurricane“ at bay. All this prevents moves towards putting the strategy into practice.
70% of strategic errors are blighted by poor implementation by senior managers; it is seldom a lack of imaginative or visionary capabilities.
Senior managers spend their working days either fighting the hurricane or watching the figures – turnover, costs, sales figures and so on. They pursue too many goals at once.
And whilst the different priorities involved in the daily business are thoroughly mixed in together by the hurricane, the senior managers lose sight of the goals. They measure everything, but the numbers limp along behind the reality. It is as if they were driving a car and only looking in the rear view mirror.
The greatest difficulties in putting a project into practice are inactivity, indecisiveness and inflexibility. There are four distinct stumbling blocks (we cover this on the customer side with an S&T, but do we do this with our employees too?)
1. Employees don’t know what the goal is
2. Employees don’t know what they have to do to achieve the goal
3. Employees have no idea where they are on the path to this goal
4. Employees don’t feel responsible for meeting the goal
It takes a lot of energy to stay on top of the “everyday hurricane“ and find a little extra to follow other goals. Urgent tasks always get attention before important ones, time and time again.
There are rules you can use to put change into place against the background of the hurricane. These rules are ignored, not deliberately but through lack of knowledge. With some clear rules, you can implement what you need to despite the hurricane.
Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important
Resources must be concentrated on a small number of goals at any one time. Responsibilities must be clearly designated, with emphasis on early indicators. What is important is that the team concentrates on those goals that are absolutely crucial – and that these are measured with the utmost care.
Discipline 2: Act on the lead measures
It is important to identify the relevant bottleneck and ascertain which change initiative will be most effective. It is necessary to keep on checking the progress made in terms of implementation.
Discipline 3: Keep a compelling scorecard
“In order to reach a goal you’ve never reached before, you need to do things you’ve never done before” (Steven R. Covey)
What should be measured, and how?
Covey differentiates between numbers showing progress, and numbers showing results. Using numbers showing progress makes employees into strategic partners! (Numbers showing progress are easier to influence, but more difficult to measure). Numbers showing results are often too distant for the purposes of everyday measuring.
It’s important to determine in advance how the achievement of goals will be measured.
Priorities are set on an urgent basis, according to differentiation into categories: important/urgent, not important/not urgent. This should be done regularly, week after week.
This clarifies even critical factors in implementation, and makes sure they can be directed effectively.
Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability
The most important questions to be clarified here are not only “Who is doing what, with what goals and what materials“, but also “Which rules do we need to follow so we can all work as a team?”
Diagram by CJ – Weekly meetings: measuring progress numbers and results numbers
With these four basic principles, you can implement the most important goals consistently and constantly, develop a culture of implementation that becomes a lasting competitive advantage and draws in the next generation of effective senior managers. Now the meaning of the quote from Steven R. Covey becomes clear: “You can’t talk your way out of a situation that you’ve got yourself into by acting”.
Video material with kind permission of Christiane Lohrmann, Senior Marketing Manager, Franklin Covey | Germany, Switzerland, Austria