In many organizations the word “strategy” is vaguely understood or not defined at all. The creation of strategy is usually owned and defined by upper management. The strategy itself is often further represented by the major plans that are defined by teams at any level of the organization. That one condition is critical since:
– Strategy and execution occur at all levels within the organization.
– What is important is to be able to take strategies that are created or imposed from any level in an organization, combine them and execute them so that they meet expectations.
Since I would claim that execution happens at all levels of an organization, there has to be a link between any top level strategy and all the execution that occurs.
It is worth a pause though to ask yourself whether you’ve ever been asked “What is your strategy for achieving …….”? You can draw your own conclusions, but I would say that not only execution happens at all levels, but so does strategy. That poses something of a challenge if you agree with my assessment that most people would have a hard time telling you what a strategy is, or even what is a strategy and what is a tactic. How can an organization successfully execute a strategy when there isn’t much confidence in what the word strategy means? This little dilemna has to be solved.
In its worse sense, the word “strategy” can be used as a weapon to exclude people. Just like IT people can use language and acronyms that shut out most non-IT people, senior business people can be quite intimidating when they talk about strategy.
How many people within an organization would be brave enough to enter into a discussion about strategy with the senior management team? As a young engineer, I remember feeling embarrassed and somewhat littler during a management meeting. The subject was a business problem, which might have had a strategy impact. I thought I had something to contribute and spoke up. Someone more senior said, in a not so polite way, that I was talking tactics, not strategy! That shut me up and shut me down. How can you argue against such a thing? I’d have been able to stand up for myself I would have had to have read books by Mintzberg, Porter or some other writer on strategy. For me, for the outcome I understood and for what I was contributing, my definition of strategy was sufficient. Good or bad, my contribution was lost.
In retrospect, my contribution might well have been a tactical recommendation. What was lost was the connection and ability to translate my tactic, and its execution, to the achievement of some previously agreed upon targeted outcome. You can derive targeted outcomes from any strategy.
What Do We Do?
If we allow ourselves to more loosely define strategy, then we can make the whole discussion around strategy and execution much more inclusive. That is, allow people at all levels of the organization to own and describe their strategy in a way that can be commonly understood. When it is combined with all other parts of the organization, it achieves the corporate strategy.
Sounds great, but wouldn’t this lead to chaos? Not if we find a way to tie all the pieces together in a shared way. This Blog will address how to tie all the pieces of strategy to execution together, but in a way that has a common shared understanding. We are going to get everyone on the same page. This is a critical shift to achieving greater success.
I think most people can understand quite quickly the concept of a targeted outcome. It’s something you aspire to achieve. It represents a performance gap of some kind. You put in place initiatives or projects to achieve targeted outcomes.
I would suggest that for most organizations moving from strategy quickly to targeted outcomes, makes the whole strategy much more accessible and allow everyone to get on the same page. The targeted outcomes can be written in short descriptions, using plain language. Acronyms need to be used very sparingly. They need to be expanded with definitions 100% of the time. Otherwise, with new additions to the team, you will never get everyone on the same page.
This Blog will be covering a lot more about translating strategy to targeted outcomes. A great targeted outcome is to arrive at a level where for any strategy everyone understands its targeted outcomes, in the same way, across the whole organization. Only then will everyone be on the same page, and everyone will be able to contribute to a synchronized execution.
Remember, using strategy as a weapon to divide, or make anyone big and someone else small, will get you nowhere.