Any business today faces change on all fronts – economic, regulatory, competitive, customer and access to resources. Consequently, every company is adjusting its strategy and that implies change. As a leader, the success of your strategy depends on your people – and whether they will be able to implement the strategy and achieve the goals.
If you are a leader at any level, your followers look to you for guidance on what needs to be done and how. Your key requirements are to set the strategy, communicate the strategy, implement the strategy and get the desired results. A great strategy is clear, simple and easy to socialise. Everyone in the organisation should know and be able to articulate the high points of the strategy.
Astrategy guides all managerial decisions from the front line to the boardroom. Strategic plans act as a roadmap that helps businesses to achieve the vision of the top-level executives in practical ways. Changing a strategy, therefore, can change the way the organisation operates, altering everything from organisational structure to the daily routines of employees.
Whether your leadership challenge comes from a strategy adjustment, a new market or from the need to integrate an acquisition, the need exists to get people aligned and the same basic approach is required to do so.
There are four steps to align your people to make your strategy successful.
Step 1: Put the customer value proposition (CVP) at the centre of everything you do.
Step 2: Enable and motivate people to implement the strategy.
Step 3: Plan the implementation of strategy.
Step 4: Implement the strategy.
Strategy is about choosing among alternatives to create a sustainable and differentiated competitive advantage. At the heart of any competitive strategy lies the CVPs. To reach this point, you have to answer yourself a few questions.
Who are our target customers? What market segment do we want to reach? What is the value proposition we are offering, in the eyes of the customer? Where are we positioned in relation to competitors, in the eyes of the customer? How does our value proposition stand out compared to our competitors?
Each value proposition leads to a different set of processes, metrics, systems and culture.
ENABLE AND MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO IMPLEMENT STRATEGY
You have several tools and controls to enable and motivate the team to implement the strategy. When they get the same message reinforced by all the control points, the strategy gets moving more easily.
With every change or adjustment in your strategy, your people want to know how it will affect their day-to-day workflow, tasks and responsibilities. The points indicated below reflect what your people think every day while at work.
Customer proposition: The CVPs can only be realized if your people know and understand what it is and receive leadership support to deliver on it. Start with a clear customer value proposition for each segment.
Strategy commitment: Your people need to understand the internal implications of the strategy and how their jobs contribute. They need to be involved and engaged so they can commit to acting in support of it. This requires constant clear and simple communication of the strategy, in clear terms people can relate to.
Performance metrics: You should construct performance metrics to encourage performance improvement, effectiveness, efficiency and appropriate levels of internal controls. They should incorporate ‘best practices’ related to the performance being measured and cost/ risk/benefit analysis, where appropriate. The major step in developing performance metrics is to involve people who are responsible for the work to be measured because they are the most knowledgeable about the work. Once these people are identified and involved, it is necessary to (1) identify critical work processes and customer requirements, (2) identify critical results desired and align them to customer requirements, (3) develop measurements for the critical work processes or critical results, (4) establish performance goals, standards or benchmarks. The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) test is frequently used to provide a quick reference to determine the quality of a particular performance metric.
Processes and structure: You must make sure the cross-functional processes, systems, structures and infrastructures in the company help people to implement strategy rather than work against them. Some processes are over-engineered or bureaucratic, with gaps and overlaps negatively
affecting the final output. At other times, no process or accountability exists to support delivery of what a company has promised to its customers.
Behaviour of senior executives: Do you have the managerial and technical capabilities to deliver the CVPs? What competencies are needed? Who should be promoted and get ahead in the organisation? People need the right skills and attitudes, as well as the authority to make the decisions and act on the strategy. It is the leaders’ responsibility to build and develop the team, deal with misaligned or low performers, clear the path for people to decide and act and keep energy and motivation high.
Culture: In simple terms, the culture is ‘the way we do things around here’. The values and behaviours of people are based on their perceptions. The culture of the organisation is the beginning and the end of strategy implementation. It is both the driver and the outcome of the decisions, activities and behaviours in an organisation. It is the culmination of past leadership behaviours, communications and people policies and the starting point for what adjustments need to be made in your company to implement your current strategy.
STEP 3: IMPLEMENTATION OF STRATEGY
You must implement strategies through a priority set of processes and projects.A strategy profile is valuable for planning the implementation of strategy. It provides a summary of your implementation plan and key projects plan on one page. This way, your people can understand it and manage by it. The strategy profile can drive all activity in the company, if it is regularly monitored and updated to make sure the strategy is on track.
Make sure processes and metrics support strategy. Processes should help smooth strategy implementation, not create an obstacle. But often, legacy processes and metrics from past strategies persist. This encourages people to behave in ways that are different to what the current strategy requires.
There are six steps involved in implementing the strategy.
Step 1: Break the strategy into smaller phases. For example, instead of implementing a new company-wide software platform to the entire company at once, start with smaller departments, maintaining a dual platform as the team’s transition into the new programme.
Step 2: Communicate to your team the map of change, which explains the various segments and where each segment falls into the overall objective of new strategy implementation. Consider training, integration and revenue results as general sections of the map of change.
Step 3: Create and post a scorecard for the new strategy implementation, serving as a cheerleader to employees throughout the process that success is feasible step by step.
Step 4: Obtain feedback with each stage through employee surveys. Creating a structure of dual involvement where your team must respond to managerial direction but feel compelled to add to the improvement of the corporate culture helps build a stronger team that embraces the changes.
Step 5: Request customer satisfaction. Integrations that appear smooth internally may adversely affect customer relations.
Step 6: Open yourself to adjustments in the new strategy, timeline and goals based on feedback and customer satisfaction.
Suppose your worst fears come true and your current strategy is driving you toward failure. The key is to stay cool, be unsentimental and untied to past. Be decisive. It is moments like this that you earn your pay as a leader. Find the right strategy, find it fast and get to work executing it.