Successfully Implementing Strategy

After undergoing a responsible strategy formulation exercise, one that requires analysis and makes people think and get out of their comfort zone, one that establish an inspiring purpose and an ambitious goal, comes the difficult task of implementing. To successfully implement strategy, you need at least these three things: translation, communication and methodology.

Translate your strategy. Before communicating your strategy, it is incredibly important to make sure you put it in terms that everybody understands. There is no space for complicated or unfamiliar language terms. Everyone, from the least to the most experienced in the workforce, must be able to understand the essence of your strategy. You have to design messages that permeate in different audiences, not just for them to understand the strategy, but also guide their actions.

Acceptance Curve

In the 80’s Bill Gates aimed for there to be “a computer in every desk and every home”, a message clear to everyone at Microsoft. This frase inspired all employees to work to empower individuals around the globe, it indicated software designers to create simple, easy to use tools for all users, to the production team it meant they had to mass produce at low cost, for the distribution team it implied developing a global logistics network, and to the sales team, this meant developing packages at accessible prices. Before explaining complicated strategies, you have to seat down and “translate” your strategy. Language must be your ally, not your enemy,  

Commuincate almost obsessively. There are spectacular, memorable strategies that never stood a chance of becoming reality. The main reason is lack of communication. Unless the company has a celebrity CEO like Richard Branson from Virgin, whose every word comes up in social media, the only way people are going to align with the new strategy is if you communicate it… to everyone… all the time. Having people merely know about your strategy is not enough.

The only way people are going to align with the new strategy is if you communicate it… to everyone… all the time.

For people to actively work towards a strategy, they have to go through a process of assimilation that starts with an initial communication. When they first learn about the new strategy, they don’t necessary understand it well and possibly have doubts about it ‘s validity. With more communication, they come to understand the logic behind the strategy and the reasons behind it, which helps them accept it. And with more detail, people get to understand that they are an essential part of strategy, that without them it is impossible to deliver the value proposition to the customer and to execute the strategy. When the team really understands the value of its actions and see themselves as key components of the whole, they become promotors, activists, and protagonists of the strategy.  

This takes constant and creative communication, that not only falls on the CEO, but also on VPs, managers, supervisors, and team leaders at the most basic level of the organization. Moreover, different levels of the hierarchy can be located at different points in the acceptance curve at a given moment. There may be several VPs actively promoting the strategy, and many skeptical supervisors simultaneously. And this is where problems usually start. VPs do their formal communication, and the effort dies there, the message doesn’t set in. That is why a continuous and ample communication program is necessary.  

Follow up and control methodology. Following up on daily work is something every supervisor knows. We know that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. But ¿what happens if what one area is measuring is counter productive for another area and affects overall results?

If the current follow-up method does not show how each area contributes to corporate objectives, then something is not working right. Methodologies such as the Balanced Scorecard and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are important because they transcend siloes, provide transparency, and allow the whole team to collaborate and row in the same direction.

A clear strategy avoids each silo from rowing in a different direction

A simply structured process, with few corporate KPIs, clear responsibilities and dashboards that make progress visible, creates awareness of ups and downs and facilitates corrective measures, giving more control over end results. Finally, a good balanced scorecard can be used as a negotiation tool between departments, as a base for feedback and performance evaluations, and a communication tool.

The road to the top is an adventure that requires everyone’s efforts. Designing an inspiring and sensible strategy is just the beginning. And, even though there are no shortcuts, these steps may be the most direct route to the success of the company.

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