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Bruce Holland

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The story to-date

In the last two Snippets I showed how 76% of strategies fail during implementation partly because, right from the start managers fail to design strategy processes that allow enough time (and practice) for people to make significant changes to their habits. As a result old behaviours re-establish themselves and quickly most of the focus and energy from a strategy workshop is dissipated.

The story continues

Managers also fail because they mistakenly belief that strategy is an intellectual activity when actually it's about emotions.

As a result they put about 80% of their effort into logic, positions, costs and features and expect change to result. They fail to realise that people only change voluntarily if they feel safe and have some control over the direction they are going. Emotions, feelings, trust and security are therefore where the 80% should be put. If managers can't design a process that gets under the surface to the unconscious level they will fail. As Wes Brown, a manager I respect greatly and M.D. of Datamail says: It's the last 14 inches from the head to the heart that matters most.

Get it off paper and into heads

It's got to come off the paper and into every head important to delivering the implementation. And I mean every head. Otherwise it remains theoretical nonsense that belongs to someone else. If it's done properly, you should be able to burn the final document confident that everyone understands what they have to do. This level of understanding is much quicker and easier than you probably believe. Sure it requires people across the organisation becoming involved but there are tricks to doing it that save time and in the process generate enormous amounts of understanding, energy, goodwill and commitment. The most people I have had involved was 6500 people at the Bank of New Zealand.

Only one hour a month!

Another key reason for failure is lack of management attention. In a recent distressing survey it was found that 85% of management teams spend less than one hour a month discussing their strategies. Now I ask you! Strategy by its very definition is a statement of the most important things happening in the organisation and yet managers are simply not talking about them! We need ways to focus managers attention constantly on achieving their strategies.

This is what I call operationalising the strategy. It includes:

  1. Setting up organisationsl structures to support ongoing strategy projects. Don't expect the existing structure to support the new strategies, they won't. People must be put in charge. And they have to be the best people.

  2. Make money available for the strategies. It's amazing how many strategies fail because there is no budget to fund them, because the strategy belongs outside any of the existing business units where the budgets reside.

  3. Report on the progress of the Strategy. What gets talked about gets achieved. So change the monthly reports. Make them 80% on strategy and 20% on other stuff.

  4. Get the links right. The aim is to get the strategies reflected in the financial forecasts, which are reflected in the teams goals and on to individual performance agreements. The biggest barrier to this, at least in larger organisations is that strategists manage the strategy process, accountants manage the financial forecasting and HR manages the performance agreements. And they don't talk to each other. Make sure that the people managing strategy, finance and HR are working well as a team towards an integrated result.

  5. Measure the strategies, and other stuff that matters. David Parmenter, is the best in this field. I call him the King of the KPIs. He says to limit the KPIs and report on them every week. As he says, and I totally agree, Show me a company with over 20 KPIs and I'll show you a lack of focus and under achievement. See

  6. Reward people and teams that deliver the strategy as required and on time. Reward may mean financial but it could also mean:
  • Having more authority
  • Recognition for effort
  • Delegation of work
  • Customer/client contact
  • Praise
  • Having responsibility for discrete areas of work
  • Career development
  • Personal job title
  • Increased decision making authority
  • Increased control over resources
  • Office equipment (furniture, computer etc.)
  • Special development programs.

Bruce Holland

Helps large organisations be focussed, fast and flexible. Places where people have more meaning, depth and connection.

Expert in Strategy, Structure, Culture and Leadership Development.

One of NZ's most experienced change agents.

Liberating the Human Spirit at Work

Key words: strategy, strategies, business strategy, business strategies, strategy management, strategic management, strategy development, implementation.

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