We’re all experts at something. If we get hired or promoted to a new role, one of the first things that we do is to look around for what’s broken. We assume that’s our job to fix what’s broken.
The whole concept of accountability is that we’re given an area of control and asked to optimize it for success for the organization. We make the changes to fix or maximize the success in our own area of responsibility. There’s one problem though; very rarely does anyone have responsibility for the success of end-to-end strategy to execution. Did the change any individual made, actually improve the whole process? An expression that I hear is, “Did all boats rise”?
What I find (consulting for many organizations and my own direct experience), is that ‘improving’ a sub-process or the area that we have total control over, breaks the historic links to other parts of the overall strategy to execution process. The change may actually set back the total strategy to execution (S2E) process of the organization. Think of the old game of telephone. You sit in a circle and whisper a message from one person to the next. The person at the end of the circle, the last one to hear the message, says what they heard out loud. It’s usually pretty funny to hear the difference between the final word and the initially whispered word. Think of a strategy being conveyed and executed across an organization and how it gets corrupted as it goes along. Now add the ideas in the game of telephone that one person has decided that they hear better, when they hum at the same time as listening. Now add that another person, decides they whisper better when they’re hopping up and down. Let everyone keep adding their own improvements for listening and whispering and you get my idea. There’s no one saying hold on now, let’s take a look at whether each of these ‘improvements’ are helping us get the right message at the end of the circle.
What is missing is the need to have someone or a group take ownership of a continuously updated point of view of the health of the end to end strategy to execution (S2E) process. If someone wants to ‘improve’ their area, there should be some higher-level understanding and decision as to whether that change will ‘help all boats rise”. Does the change take into consideration the way other parts of the organization interact with the area that wants to create change?
This will be a subject area that I’ll be posting more about over time. I don’t think many organizations have any formal continuous assessment of the quality of their S2E process. If I were a CEO or head of a large organization, I’d want to have an objective understanding of the weakess points in the S2E process and allow improvements to occur there first.