In our last post, we discussed the challenges of implementing strategy in organisations and the problems that can occur in organisations when focus is removed from strategic priorities. We found that Performance Focused Organisations will align their systems and processes to facilitate the achievement of business strategy and strategic objectives. In this post, we discuss how organisations can reduce the negative impacts of a failure to focus on and align around strategy.

What do our high achiever clients do to reduce the impact of strategy implementation problems?

We found that there are three key features of our client’s performance management systems that most explain the difference between businesses that can implement their strategic priorities through people and those that can’t.

1.  Work-strategy line of sight

Strategic Performance Focused Organisations are almost fanatical about creating direct line-of-sight between strategic priorities and individual performance objectives.  They interpret each strategic priority explicitly for each function as well as for cross-function requirements.  Then they hard-wire these requirements into performance plans.  Every person in every function states explicitly what they are going to do to support the achievement of the strategic priorities.  Of course people can also have non-strategic priority objectives, but these are always second on the list.

The result of this system is that leaders in businesses can actually practice leadership because the system is doing the performance management for them.  This might sound obvious, but in the haste to get on with making the strategy happen, preparing performance plans and milestones carefully is often neglected.

None of this replaces standard performance and development processes.  Learning & Development plans are still prepared, career aspirations supported and workforce planning, succession planning and talent management programs initiated.

2.  Customised leadership expectations – rated by followers

Businesses in our client base that successfully achieve their strategic priorities through people also demonstrate a preparedness to ask the question “What specific leadership capabilities will be needed to best support the implementation of these particular strategic priorities, and do our current leaders have those skills?”

Specified, customised leadership capabilities can be placed in the upward feedback component of performance assessment systems, i.e. by asking the question “Did your manager display these specific leadership attributes this year?”  Because strategy transforms businesses, these attributes represent transformational leadership capabilities not mechanistic, transactional ones.  For example, a strategic priority of one client was to “innovate its services and energise its increasingly conservative culture”, so it used openness to ideas as the core leadership capability for that year.

3.  One area of focus selected from generic values and behaviours

The final difference between what marks the Performance Focused Organisations in our client base is their ability to determine what change is required to the behaviours that are required to support the strategic priorities.  They recognise that as strategic priorities change, so some behaviours should be favoured over others in the overall Values and Behaviours framework of the business.  They are explicit about the strategic behaviours that are required.  They hard-wire this change into all performance plans and staff state explicitly how they will live that behaviour in their role and team(s).

For example, one client suffering a revenue squeeze had all staff specify what they were going to do to strengthen customer engagement with the business and improve customer satisfaction.  It became the single behavioural priority for the current year.

By Dr John Viljoen, Associate Consultant

Do you need assistance in implementing your strategy?  If we can help you align your business and implement strategy, don’t hesitate to call us. We have a strong, experienced team to assist you get back on track.

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