Strategy through People
As a Performance-based consulting business we understand what it takes to get strategy developed and implemented. It turns out that obtaining funding for strategic initiatives can be the easy part. The hard part is getting the day-to-day work of key implementers, the leadership and the entire workplace culture all aligned with strategic priorities.
We have evidence that the difference between under-performers and high performers (Performance Focused Organisations) in terms of successfully addressing strategic priorities lies in the use of tightly targeted processes that bring strategy to life through people.
These processes relate to three things:
- Creating limited, customised strategy supportive performance objectives for every staff member, every year;
- Creating one or two leadership expectations for all managers targeted specifically at the current strategic priorities;
- Creating specified behavioural priorities for all staff that pull them away from focusing on all Values and Behaviours equally.
Importantly, our high performing clients recognise these three items will be reviewed and will probably change each year. The evidence shows they implement specific performance management methodologies and adopt an evidence-based approach to customising their leadership standards across the whole business.
What determines the ability of a business to successfully implement strategy through its people?
Our annual client reviews consistently demonstrate that, from year-to-year, the strategic issues confronting some clients do not change significantly. Despite the best executive thinking and planning, the issues are not being managed out of the priority zone. So over the past few years we decided to go “downstream” in these clients’ businesses to find out why. What we discovered amazed us.
Faltering commitment to strategic priorities — without action to prevent it
The commitment of executives to whole-of-business strategic priorities naturally falters as they re-enter their functional world after a strategic planning session. This is to be expected because context always affects priorities. The surprising thing is the lack of systemic support that executives are given to help them remain fixed on the strategy. The strategy development process simply did not intersect with the performance management system.
Even the performance agreements of some executive teams are not changed to make them more accountable for specific strategic outcomes. Vague statements about being expected to develop and implement the strategy of the business are common.
Increased autocratic leadership
Within three months, the lack of a strategy supportive performance management system had resulted in sporadic attention being paid to strategic priorities in favour of day to day functional priorities and immediate risk mitigation. The sporadic forays into dealing with strategic priorities are associated with a more autocratic style because implementation deadlines begin to slip.
Once this point is reached it turned out to be a watershed moment.
Autocracy has a serious impact on certain categories of staff, particularly highly skilled staff who expect to have their professional opinions respected, and young staff, the Gen Ys, who expect to be listened to and involved in decision making. These staff are the core of expertise and energy in the business. Without their full support, strategic priorities can become terminally ill.
The flow-on from increasing autocracy is the gradual decay of multi-layered partnerships and collaboration between management levels as well as across the business. Human relations in general begin to suffer – the standards of conduction and behaviour expressed in the Values and Behaviours, start to crumble.
Strategic project schedules slip, autocracy replaces more effective workplace partnerships, and core values are no longer being modelled by some of the leaders.
In our next post, we will discuss ways to reduce the occurrence of these problems.
So what do our high achiever clients do to reduce the impact of these problems?
By Dr John Viljoen, Associate Consultant