At one point early in my career, a re-org put workers into two camps. You were either in the “strategic” camp, or you were put into the “non-strategic” camp. I remember feeling like kind of a loser when my name appeared on the non-strategic camp list. Like the right-fielder of the workplace.
So the strategic camp (shortstops) talked about what we “should do”. Here were our problems, and here’s where we need to go, they said.
That was cool, but as time went on, I found myself asking (from right field) “hey, are we winning the game?” It was hard for me to actually know, because we didn’t have a way to measure if the strategy was actually working.
And then it hit me. I had uncovered my own secret to strategy execution:
They are not separate camps–they are one and the same.
Let me explain.
Strategy does you no good if it is not executed. When the strategy “setters” don’t actually play the roles of the strategy “executors”, it’s a recipe for, well, not getting a whole lot accomplished.
The biggest miss that I see is not having an effective measurement system or control plan for the execution of your strategy. Without it, pure strategy setters are more comfortable, because we are not really held accountable to anything that can be measured. But, it can drive strategy executors crazy because we don’t know what we need to do to win.
I want to win; therefore, I need to know what winning looks like (not just feels like). In most other things, like sports, it’s a score. So why not at work? Why at work does one team think we are winning, while another can feel that we’re not? The answer is that it is because you do not have a shared measurement system.
But with an effective measurement system, progress (good or bad) can be regularly monitored and because of that, course corrections can be made. It’s even better if you can ground yourself around one be-all-end-all measure, to rally everyone around the “one thing” that will happen upon the successful execution of your strategy. This can also help you filter out good ideas from mediocre ones by asking how implementing that idea would impact that main measure. . The simplicity of focus on one goal is liberating. You feel energized along the way, dying to see the numbers and progress when you get into work on Monday morning. People who doubted you along the way start to believe, and in the end you’ve executed your strategy.
Teams also get too enamored with what they should measure instead of what they can measure. Too much time spent on speculating about what you should measure will prevent you from even starting to measure what you can measure.
Remember, a Strategy leads to an outcome. An outcome requires a measurement system. A measurement system helps you see if you are making the right kind of impact. That’s the secret–they are all one in the same, not separate camps. Then, rinse and repeat.