0

This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence looked at how you focus a distracted organization on an implementation strategy to align and focus activities. Not an easy task. Here is a recommendation to make it happen through taking on three different strategic roles. 

3 Roles to Focus a Distracted Organization on Implementation Strategy

A C-level executive with a non-profit is at wits’ end. Amid a recent major leadership transition, the incoming CEO drove a broad, collaborative, strategic input initiative. A large leadership group shaped a strategic plan with several strategies and accompanying tactics. Full plan implementation could take twenty-four to thirty-six months. After the initiative to shape and guide future activities delivered a plan, the organization has seemingly returned to doing what it had already been doing. When this executive reaches out for progress updates or tries to focus leadership meetings around the plan, she regularly hears, “We’re too busy to focus on the strategic plan.”

Yet, she reports, the organization IS working on and progressing on plan tactics. This led her to ask: How does a senior executive lacking direct line responsibility champion an implementation strategy in a distracted organization?

That’s a fantastic, real world question.

An Implementation Strategy that Creates Focus

The executive has a challenge ahead. She’s willing to pursue making an implementation strategy because of her personal stake in helping lead the organization through the strategic planning initiative. She also knows the impact a comprehensive strategy can have in shaping an organization and improving results. You may not be in exactly this situation. It’s likely, though, given your responsibilities, that you have had to push for a major strategic initiative in a distracted organization focused on daily pressures. Answering her request for help with developing an approach to get the organization focused on implementing strategy, we shared a three-fold role.

1. Become the Strategic Implementation Reporter

Role one involves being a reporter. This means gathering information on what the organization is actually doing (whether in the plan or not) and the impact of these activities. For tracking progress, the executive said organization leaders would be more open to conversations versus completing progress update templates. As a reporter, she is going to reach out to leaders to discuss their current priorities. She’ll ask about their top four or five focus areas, early results they’re seeing, and what’s next in each area.

She can then recap the conversations within the context of the strategic plan. She’ll match their top activities to strategies and tactics already spelled out in the plan. Where they report activities not in the plan, she’ll look for natural places they might fit. If they don’t ultimately have a home in the plan, she will list them separately. The result? She will recast all the activities people see as outside the plan into the plan’s structure to show how focused the organization is or is not.

2. Effectively Monitor Strategic Metrics

Beyond simply listing tactics within a plan format (which she did for a previous quarterly meeting), she’ll next document progress and returns associated with the activities.
From our discussion, it is clear that the organization is awash in metrics. The challenge is that the metrics are not aligned and reported in light of the strategic plan. To tackle this second role (as the Monitor for the plan), we suggested going beyond top-line and bottom-line numbers. She can also include early performance indicators and qualitative information on progress. We recommend focusing on three areas for each strategy:

  • Activities
  • Impacts
  • Returns

“Activities” (which she’ll document in the reporting role) highlight what the organization is doing. That’s where plan implementation starts. Next, “Impacts” provide early indicators of where the plan is progressing and struggling. These generally develop before the third item on the dashboard, “Returns.” Returns are the revenue growth, cost reduction, profitability improvement, and other core measures that signal an organization’s performance.

Beyond number-based metrics, look for anecdotes, stories, and images that provide greater depth to the numbers. Combining numbers with a descriptive approach to metrics offers a more robust picture of strategic implementation.

This approach addresses another challenge with plan implementation tracking: focusing only on dashboards with return-oriented metrics. Such a stripped-down approach is visually pleasing, and attractive to busy executives who don’t have time for details. The problem is that this approach disconnects business returns from the critical activities necessary to generate and improve them.

3. Connect the Organization to the Strategy

The third role is that of Connector. This means analyzing the progress recap and introducing the work to the organization, both individually and in groups. While the executive we talked with wants to share the progress update at the organization’s leadership meeting, we recommend going back to individuals BEFORE introducing it to the team. Here’s what this approach might look like in its entirety:

  • Go first to those leaders that appear as if they aren’t doing much in the plan. Discuss and clarify with them to see if you’ve missed anything. Ask if there are other activities to include. The point is to provide an opportunity to improve their focus and save face before a group meeting.
  • Then, go to the leaders that are doing a lot to further the implementation strategy. Discuss with them suggestions or learnings behind the strong performance. See if they are fine with you celebrating their successes in a group setting.
  • After the individual conversations, introduce the recap at a leadership team meeting with no surprises. Those who haven’t been implementing the plan have an opportunity to get with the program. Leaders who ARE carrying out the plan know ahead of time that you intend to feature them.

This connected view of organizational activities typically opens leaders’ eyes to realize there is greater alignment and focus than apparent amid daily activities.

Adopting this Three-Role Approach to Implementation Strategy

You may look at these three roles and scoff because it appears that we’re recommending this busy executive take work for others. While that’s one view, we would say that if making strategic implementation successful is important enough to you, it’s worth the extra work and the alignment efforts we’re recommending.

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times




Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I don’t know that we have ever run a reader letter here, but the story in this email and the writer’s comments deserve a wider audience.

5-min-idling-limit

The letter is from Barbara Lane at Telesystem in Northwood, OH. She wrote in response to Emma Alvarez Gibson’s post-election reflection. What Barbara relates is another helpful part of the reflection and need to move forward that is the air right now:

Mike and team,

First, I want to say thanks for your blog and plethora of articles on strategic planning.  I have used many of your techniques both at work and as I facilitate visioning and strategic planning at my church.

With regards to the email today, I am currently in the middle of leading a Bible study based on the book, “Fear of the Other” by Will Willimon.   In it, he puts forth many of the same ideas contained in Emma Gibson’s reminder. But one that particularly spoke to me was an exchange between Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.  Douglass was bemoaning the plight of black slaves and the country’s reluctance for – no, outright anger and indignation against – the proposition of freedom for them.  Truth, who was fully aware of Douglass’ Christian beliefs asked him, “Frederick, is God dead?”

I think this is very pertinent to what many people are feeling today, and we have to realize that there is a greater power out there who works all things according to his purpose.

BTW – if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

I greatly appreciate you and your efforts,

Barb

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I woke up this morning, and the first thing I saw on Facebook was this reflection by Emma Alvarez Gibson (from our West Coast Brainzooming outpost) as the election returns in the United States were coming in last night.

It says everything beautifully.

eag-election

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter highlighted two Wall Street Journal articles examining leadership strategy in light of how involved a teacher or coach should be in the details of teaching and learning. 

Leadership Strategy – How Much Teaching and Coaching Is Enough?

When it comes to your leadership strategy, what are the best techniques to develop your team? Should you be in the thick of things, understanding the details of what is going on with team members, and being an active resource for them? Or are they (and you) better off taking a hands-off approach and letting them handle the details relatively unencumbered?

In the Wall Street Journal this week, two articles addressed these questions from different angles.

An article by concert pianist and instructor, Byron Janis, addressed teacher-student relationships in music. Andrew Beaton addressed the topic of college football coaches forsaking their CEO-like management roles to create game plans, call plays, and behave like traditional coaches.

Learning to Play Music Pleasing to Another’s Ears

Leadership-Strategy-Teaching

Janis offers advice gleaned from his own teaching experiences and from his time as a student of piano great Vladimir Horowitz during the 1940s. He shares four pieces of advice for teachers (that can extend to leaders and managers):

  1. Don’t over-teach to a specific standard

Teachers must balance their knowledge and inclinations to instruct what THEY know with the students’ needs to find and develop their own styles. A student only develops a distinctive talent and style if a teacher remains open and refrains from over-instructing based on what the teacher believes and knows.

Leadership Questions: How much latitude do you give less experienced team members to chart their own directions? Are there areas where you dictate a course of action that would benefit from junior team members exerting greater independence?

  1. Let individuals own their problems and solutions

When a student failed to grasp a particular musical passage, Horowitz would tell the student that something was amiss without indicating what it was. He invited them to ponder it, address what they discover, and return the next week to share the correction. This technique puts students in charge of making mistakes, identifying them, and determining the appropriate fixes.

Leadership Questions: How readily do you dissect errors and problems in detail? What room do you have to point out potential issues while allowing your team an opportunity to diagnose and correct them to develop their mistake-making and fixing skills?

  1. Provide ample room to disagree and interpret your input

Teachers can further free students to self-diagnose and correct problems through realizing their own subjective interpretations of performance strategies can be mistaken. Student can have creative perspectives that are on the mark even though instructors don’t understand them. As Horowitz told students, “‘If any of my interpretive ideas don’t feel right, please disregard them.”

Leadership Questions: Are you providing team members enough creative freedom in subjective areas to listen to your viewpoint, while applying their own ideas for implementing strategies? What techniques do you employ to keep your mind open to creative perspectives different from your own?

  1. Encourage a unique, personal path

It is easy, especially for individuals that strive to be perfect, to take in a more senior person’s vision, trying to mimic it as closely as possible. Instead, Janis recommends teachers show students that inspiration and expression are not primarily the byproducts of learning and practicing. They develop from actively living a varied, diverse life. He points out, in closing the article, that life “is perhaps the most important teacher of all. Hard work alone is not the solution.”

Leadership Questions: When new team members (especially junior ones) join your organization, how much onboarding involves instruction? In contrast, how much onboarding involves getting them started experiencing their new environment and actively doing and trying things right away? What opportunities are you creating to provide room for them to bring personal life learnings to your team to increase diversity and your team’s performance?

Getting Back into Coaching

While Byron Janis’ article emphasizes student-driven and owned learning as a teacher uses a gentler hand, Andrew Beaton’s perspective how active college coaches are in actually coaching raises an intriguing counterpoint.

Beaton points to former University of Texas head football coach, Mack Brown, as a forerunner in the “CEO style of coaching.” With coaches at major programs finding themselves in charge of well over a hundred players and staff (plus a nearly comparable number of prospective students they are monitoring), the head coaching role in college football has changed dramatically. Dedicated coordinators build game plans and make play calls during games. A variety of other “middle managers” assume implementation roles for the team.

Put it all together, and the head coach can feel disconnected and limited during a Saturday game.

That’s why some coaches are reversing the trend. A group that includes new University of Miami coach, Mark Richt, is re-working the head coaching role. Richt is prioritizing working with the team’s quarterbacks, designing game plans, and calling plays during the game. Richt and other coaches are devoting more time toward the Xs and Os of football as a way to tackle the classic dilemma of managers that developed as workers: promotions into senior positions remove them from the strong expertise and performance that originally earned their promotions.

Leadership Questions: If you made the transition from worker to manager in your career, how much time do you spend still doing? Are you doing enough doing to keep your skills and perspectives relevant? Or have you long ago walked away from daily activities that generate the value and benefit your team delivers to internal and external audiences? If you see yourself as too removed from daily team activities, what are the best ways to get closer to what your organization does?

It’s about a Balance that Keeps Moving

As with most leadership topics, the only clear direction is that what you do depends on your situation. And in this case, it may vary by specific team member. All of us as leaders need to determine the right balance to guide and grow our teams, and only you may know the right answer! – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Facing Innovation Barriers? Here Is Help!

Innovation-Strategy-eBooks

Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

One of my favorite things is when clients, blog readers, and Brainzooming workshop attendees use our strategic thinking exercises to explore new ideas. They often end up creating new formats and adapting tools in ways we hadn’t envisioned!

The most recent example came our way this weekend.

Diane Bleck of Discovery Doodles  and I were tweeting each other a couple of times in the past few weeks about innovation.

Early yesterday, she alerted me to expect a custom drawing heading my way via Twitter later in the day.

Imagine my surprise when Diane’s drawing turned out to be a representation of an innovation strategy formula we shared on the Brainzooming blog a year earlier. Diane took the simple 5-step innovation strategy formula and brought it to life via this infographic.

Diane-Bleck-5-Innovation-St

What’s particularly cool is step number five. The original step was “Revel and Repeat.” This was meant to encourage celebrating successes and incorporating new learning into future innovation strategy.

Diane modified “Revel” to become “Reveal,” which creates an additive impact to the formula since you definitely have to let the world know about your innovation!

Thanks, Diane, for expanding the range of Brainzooming tools with your creativity and skill! – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

In its  “Inside the Executive Suite” newsletter, Armada Corporate Intelligence featured a recap and expansion on a Wall Street Journal article called “Win Over a Remote Boss.”  The prevalence of remote collaboration (and the new strategic thinking and other challenges those situations can create) prompted sharing the “Inside the Executive Suite” story here in an edited format.

Strategic Thinking – 4 Strategies for Successful Remote Collaboration

AEIB-Graphic

I Can’t See You! What Do You Think?

Roughly forty percent of US workers work from home or in other virtual work settings. Include individuals reporting to an office but working directly with bosses and/or employees in other locations, and the prevalence of distance working relationships grows.

We liken the advice to employ different communication styles in remote work settings to how actors vary gestures and speaking approaches based on how readily an audience can see their faces. TV and movies allow for more subtle gestures because facial cues are readily visible to the audience. Stage actors (who are further away from the audience) have to use bigger gestures to convey the same messages with comparable impact. The acting style must vary relative to the level of connection.

A recent Wall Street Journal article shared advice for individuals working remotely as part of a team.

Similarly in remote work settings, you have to adapt interaction styles to fit the challenges of reduced interaction when people can’t see each other.

4 Strategies for Clarifying and Modifying How You Interact

Based on ideas from the Wall Street Journal article and our remote working experiences, consider these strategies for successful remote collaboration. Instead of ideas tied to particular apps, we’ll concentrate on behaviors adaptable to the tools available to your work team.

Orange-Cupts-String

Create clear understanding about communication and decision making styles

It’s imperative to clarify communication preferences and decision styles irrespective of whether you are the boss or an employee. Not every boss, however, can readily articulate personal communication and decision preferences. We suggest answering these strategic thinking questions to improve clarity:

  • Do you like learning the main point immediately (with details to follow) when someone delivers a recommendation? Alternatively, do you prefer a run-through making the case for a recommendation before someone shares the big idea?
  • Can you identify typical situations where team members can make decisions on their own, either with or without the boss’ input? What types of decisions can the boss alone make? Are there any situational factors impacting these guidelines?
  • Do you comfortably make quick decisions, or do you mull over the possibilities prior to deciding? Does this tendency apply to all decisions or just certain ones?
  • Relative to approval situations, are there times when specific approval (i.e., receiving a Yes or No) isn’t required? In these cases, will it work to simply have a “reply by or we will move ahead” date to reduce back-and-forth communication and accelerate the review process?

The answers lead to more independent work processes and efficient communication. Try converting the answers into general guidelines or a decision tree everyone can use.

Use the right communication channel for the situation

While it is convenient to use email as a predominant form of communication, it isn’t ideal in every situation. Consider what communication channel makes it easiest for the receiver to consume, process, and act on your inbound communication.

The WSJ article recommends email for delivering project status updates and other information plus bouncing ideas off of someone else. Instant messages or texts typically generate greater attention for time-sensitive issues.

While over-communicating is important in remote work settings, you don’t want to overdo it inadvertently. Test yourself by considering whether you would seem to be a nuisance if you showed up as often at someone’s office door as you are showing up in his or her email inbox/text message list/voice mail box?

Schedule brief, informal updates with high regularity

It’s easy to be lazy and use cc and bcc as your primary avenues to communicate updates to others. What is easier for a sender than listing multiple names on an email and expecting that including someone on the email serves as an update?

Unless you have an app signaling when a recipient opens an email, however, you have no idea when or how a recipient processes the information. Additionally, copying people on emails in place of targeted updates places all the work on the recipient to sift through nested email strings to understand where things are at currently.

It’s far better for a team member to create a legitimate update listing high priority initiatives, along with current activities, potential issues, and likely next steps. Consolidating multiple “cc and update” emails into one communication (with hyperlinks to more detailed information) saves time and doesn’t waste the attention of a boss already inundated with “cc and update” emails daily.

Prioritize and escalate issues in smart ways

Despite creating guidelines for expected situations, there will be unplanned times requiring alternative methods of prioritization and escalation approaches. Here are suggestions in these cases:

  • Prioritize tasks that others need to get started addressing. Better to get someone else working sooner than later so you can both be active on high priority items.
  • When it comes to deciding on responding to communications, jump on quick email and phone response to bosses and co-workers that don’t have visibility to what you are doing. Suggest that the team put a phrase such as “Immediate Attention” into priority emails to help with this.
  • Anticipate an escalation path if a co-worker has not responded in a timely fashion, leaving you hanging. Do you have an okay to reach out at unusual times to keep things moving? Ask about this upfront to minimize potential anxiety if there’s a situation where you need to demand attention right away.

When in doubt?

Whenever a remote working situation leaves you questioning how best to communicate, interact, or keep a project moving ahead, a fantastic strategic thinking question suggested by the WSJ article is to ask: What path will best grow and maintain trust in this working relationship? The answer will generally be a smart way to go.  – Armada Corporate Intelligence

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I retweeted a Brainzooming article on seven reasons to ask for forgiveness, not permission in launching a new strategy. Tara Rethore, CEO of M. Beacon Enterprises, a strategy development and execution consulting firm, replied that there needed to be a post on the seven best reasons to be forgiven, instead.  It didn’t take long to jump on the offer and suggest that Tara guest write that article for us!

Innovation-Strategy-Tweet

Tara (@TRethore on Twitter), works with organizations and leaders to develop realistic business strategies and to break them down into the key actions that allow them to succeed. She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and an AB cum laude from Mount Holyoke College. Tara also comments on business strategy, execution, and results in Strategy for real™.

Here are Tara’s seven reasons why leaders should grant forgiveness, not enforce permission when it comes to innovation strategy:

Innovation Strategy – 7 Reasons to Grant Forgiveness, Not Enforce Permission by Tara Rethore

Tara-Rethore-Innovation-StrategyIs it better to ask for forgiveness after (not permission before) launching a new direction or innovation strategy? That question is targeted at employees or staff.

In our strategy work, we’ve found that reframing the question can be a powerful tool for executing strategy.

So, what if you’re the boss?

If you grant forgiveness, what’s in it for you?

7 Reasons to Grant Forgiveness, Not Enforce Permission on Your Innovation Strategy

Here are seven reasons – in order of increasing importance and impact – to grant forgiveness and spur innovation:

7. You are allowing, or perhaps creating, space for insight.

6. It encourages creativity and initiative, critical sparks for innovation.

5. The potential reward surpasses the risk – or the risk is being sufficiently managed to avoid catastrophe.

4. The initiative is bringing people together in a new way and for a common purpose that could benefit the organization.

3. The freedom to experiment – and permission to fail – is a great way to build a “test and learn” culture.

2. The idea or approach is sparking new ideas, or another direction that make even more sense.

And the #1, best reason to grant forgiveness: It’s working!

Innovation often comes from insight, mistakes, or accident. So the next time someone starts without permission, then begs your forgiveness, consider whether she/he also sparked something awesome! – Tara Rethore

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading