Executing a strategy to
achieve Mutual Value
If as part of your strategy your organisation recognises the need to enhance performance, then training is only one element of execution. In Mutual Value we believe that engaging the team in execution of the strategy is the key to its success.
Why do strategies fail?
There are key reasons we have seen; most importantly
· Leadership fail to understand that changing behaviour and habit takes time, support, recognition and reward
· The people who have to actually do the work are either unengaged with the strategy, don’t understand what they should do about it, or believe it’s somebody else’s job.
· Even if people understand what’s being asked of them, they simply don’t have time to do all the new things they are doing in the middle of doing their ‘day’ job.
The following 6 steps are the Mutual Value approach to overcoming the barriers to execution:
- Define the War and the Battles
- Align the leadership team
- Co-create the commitments
- Define the measures and scoreboards
- Create the drumbeat of accountability
- Report on success
People describe their strategic focus in different ways: Wildly Important Goals (WIG), Big Hairy Audacious Goal etc. etc. We combine Mutual Value principles with some of the ideas of a well respected strategy handbook ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’. This focusses on a War which needs to be won as a unifying imperative, and the minimum number of Battles to win it. This aligns everyone behind relatively few initiatives in which they can all play a role.
The way we apply this is to use a Mutual Value approach to strategy execution within the organisation. It is a way of involving your teams in how each Battle can be won, such that there is aligned ambition and co-creation of the solution.
Mutual Value works with its customers to define the War in a way that everybody can understand and buy into. Examples might include ‘The Margin War: doubling our margin in major clients over 3 years’ or ‘The Major Accounts War: Increasing the share of Total Revenue from Major Accounts from 20% to 40% over 24 months’ or “the Focus War: refining our market propositions such that 75% is core business within 18 months’. These can be stretching but must in most people’s minds be achievable – people who don’t believe the War can be won won’t put their best efforts into fighting for it.
Having defined the War, the next step is to define the Battles – the minimum number of critical goals we need to reach as a business that ensure success in the War. Examples might include “The Skills Battle” “The Supply Chain Battle” or “the Collaboration Battle”. Each battle needs to be described clearly as a SMART Goal. (simple/specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timelined)
Too many organisations try to tackle too many things at once. At this stage it’s the ability to prioritise and simplify that increase the likelihood of success. We recommend no more than 3. The successful execution of these will create a culture which is used to achievement and success.
It’s important that leadership below the executive level have an opportunity to engage with the battles and to work out for themselves what specific objectives they can set to help achieve them. This differs from almost every other execution process, most of which are based on a ‘broadcast’ or ‘tell’ approach which often fails to motivate. The aim here is to embed the strategy by giving people ownership of things they can do to further it. The role of the executive in this scenario is to encourage, coach and support, but also to ensure the collective commitments are sufficient to achieve the battles.
Having identified specific objectives that contribute to the battles, each team needs to break this down into goals which will achieve the objective. As with leadership ambition, success in execution at the team level is to keep the number of goals down to a maximum of three. These must be the few critical goals, expressed in terms of specific, measurable, achievable, timelines, but specifically including lead measures as well as lag. By emphasising lead measures the team puts itself in a position where it can influence future results (lag measures) and change behaviours and goals if they are not going to deliver.
People enjoy games, like to win and to know they are winning. The more we can make delivering on strategy engaging and motivating – like a game, the more likely it is to succeed.
Typical corporate scoring simply doesn’t motivate people to greater, more focussed effort, but given the opportunity teams can create exciting scoreboards that do. We believe in each team defining their own scoreboards and being able to celebrate progress and success publicly.
Successful strategic execution in the face of the whirlwind is dependent on carving out time to focus on the new behaviours required by the strategy. In order to do this it is critical that teams focus on doing only one or two things that move the goal forward each week and being accountable for doing so. Our Clients achieve their strategy by the combined efforts of their team each delivering on their weekly commitments – the total of small individual contributions being far more significant than the mighty efforts of a few.
We recommend our Clients sets up a weekly meeting – the most important meeting of the week – at which each team member would report to his/her peer group on the commitment they would have made at the previous meeting to take action to progress on their goal in support of the Battle.
Additionally, they make a commitment to action for the following week. During this process the leader’s key role is to offer to help clear any problems that may present blockages to the
commitments, and to encourage and coach the team to be ambitious and innovative.
Having a point in time when the organisation will report on progress and success further refines the focus on commitments and accountability. Typically, 6 months out, the session is an important milestone where the leadership shares progress, celebrates success and checks validity of the current goals, modifying as necessary. Individual achievements can be recognised, best practice shared and the importance of the process reinforced.
Some key principles which we would like to share:-
1. Execution is a process and not an event. It is something which needs to be implemented and managed by the executive leadership team, and should have their continued involvement and oversight.
2. Execution happens at the leadership level closest to the front line. The executive are responsible for creating and supporting the environment but the appropriate leaders will need to be fully engaged and supported as they apply the process.
3. Having an overall process Coach at senior level is an accelerator. . The analogy in ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ is to the Chief Mechanic of a F1 racing team – somebody who helps others co-operate, solve issues, and drives priority. This critical role should not be an add on to an already busy workload.
4. Execution cannot be driven by training courses or by external parties. Having external experience may be invaluable but the activity has to be owned by the business.
5. Execution becomes a habit. Once you have achieved your first set of goals the same process becomes applicable time and time again, and colleagues will demand it.
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