When you stepped on this path of entrepreneurship, if you’re like me, you became a sponge for knowledge. If there was a new strategy you heard about, you found a resource to become skilled in learning that strategy. If there was an event you knew you needed to be at, you figured out how to get there. You were an “eager beaver” to learn, learn, learn and implement what you learned in your business.
But chances are, nobody ever suggested you stop with all the information gathering and ask yourself the deeper questions of, “Is this right for me? Is this aligned with who I am, what my business is and what’s important to me?” Many entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with are just now stepping back to ask themselves what they’ve been doing for the past several months (or years)… and if it’s really working for them.
What several of these entrepreneurs are discovering is that they’ve been going after what they “thought” they “should” be doing based on watching and modeling someone else. It’s an honest thing to do. You’re taught to model others. But, you’ve got to be mindful of knowing where the line is between modeling in a way that serves you and modeling in a way that pulls you further away from who you are.
On that note, I want to share with you the ABC’s of aligning with your business so no matter what stage you’re in; no matter how much knowledge you have; no matter your level of success (or frustration) these three tips will help you make sure you are on track to be in total alignment with your business as you head into 2010.
In order to get from “Point A” to “Point B” in terms of aligning with your business, you’ve first got to assess where you really are. Many entrepreneurs just keep going, keep plowing through their to-do list without taking time to step back and truly assess where they’re at and what direction they’re headed.
In this phase, you’ll allow yourself to see what’s working in your business and what isn’t working in your business, and more importantly what is and isn’t working for YOU! It may be that your greatest source of income is also coming from the service that causes you the most amount of stress. This is not in alignment. Your income ought to come from your greatest joy. So, these are the things to be looking for. Where does your business FEEL right and where doesn’t it?
The assessment phase may uncover some things that perhaps you’d prefer not to see. I know when I went through the assessment phase in my business, I saw I was doing things that I really shouldn’t have been doing. These were some of the things others had suggested I do, so they didn’t purely come from the intent in my heart, but by what someone else thought.
So, this next phase invites you to be brave in facing what you see. Yes, it might feel temporarily easier to pretend that what you see isn’t really there. It’s natural to want to avoid that kind of pain. However, if it’s there, it will always be there and it can’t really be avoided, it can only be postponed. So, allow yourself to face whatever you see straight-on and you will be one step closer to totally aligning your Self with your business.
Finally, the third phase is to embrace the concept of co-creation. Co-creation happens when you are fully awake, aware and conscious of the reality that everything created through you is created in partnership with Spirit. In order to truly be aligned with your Self and your business, it’s essential to not let your human will or your ego feel like it’s the creative force behind what you do.
Alignment happens when your ego is set aside, when your intent is pure, when comparison and competition (or what you think you “should” do) aren’t part of your process. This can be the greatest growth opportunity of all… to allow yourself to “let go” enough to make room for grace. So, don’t feel like you have to do everything in your business (or your life) alone, be open to seeing that when you’re in alignment you’re opening to a world of infinite possibility.
We know of no company that has ever saved themselves into prosperity. However, we also know of no company that has positioned themselves for long-term success without managing their costs, productivity and most importantly the actions that they take to give them an advantage in the markets that they serve.
In our experience, the primary obstacle is not structure, market conditions or financial pressure, it is misalignment …
•Misalignment of core processes with strategy
•Misalignment of recognition issues that reward activity but negate strategy
•Misalignment of managerial behaviors and attitudes with strategic direction(Inappropriate attitudes render long term success DOA)
•Misalignment of strategies, products and services with what customers really value
The simple logic is that today, misalignment can be costing your company as much as 15% of your gross sales. Stopping only a fraction of this bleeding would improve your profits, employee and customer satisfaction, successful new product introductions and supplier relationships. Your unit costs would go down and your competitiveness would go up.
We would like the opportunity to connect the above with your current business situation and to illustrate how our organization might become a resource to you. We unlike traditional consulting firms believe the answers to the challenges and opportunities facing an organization exist within that organization. It’s our job to help you tap into this creativity and talent to get more from what you already have and fill the performance “GAP”s between your strategies, people, process and customers and where you want to be. Don’t let misalignment impact your profitability.
A colleague of mine says that people don’t mind change and they don’t necessarily fear it – but that they do fear what is required to make a change. So, in effect, when organizational change management is proposed and employees begin to have “fear conversations” (“I wonder what job moves are going to come about as a result of this. . .?” “Where is all this heading. . .?” ” What kind of shake-ups will there be at the top?”) what they’re actually expressing is a fear of how the change is to be instituted. Organizational psychologists are highly attuned to change constructs, to the organizational purposes that they serve, and the opportunities and advantages that they provide for organizations. For all the positive aspects that change provides, we nevertheless find dichotomized thinking about the change process, when we work with the employees of a corporation undergoing change. From one prospective, we find that the organization’s members endorse the end result of change and the advantages that this can bring. They can see, for example, that changes can offer greater efficiencies and improved and easier ways of doing things; increased corporate profits and a chance at higher salaries; a heightened competitive edge and greater market status advantage for the company. While acknowledging these benefits, what they talk to us about, however, are the actions and details that will occur between the time change is initiated and when the change has been effected – that is, the path that is to be traveled to make the change is of the greatest concern.
Because change is so all-pervasive in modern organizations, two of the most critical elements of leadership are initiation and management of change. Most managers have had limited training in the specifics of leading organizational change and have little idea of the ways that their employees perceive and experience change. And, yet, much of the day-to-day work of the manager involves addressing marketplace opportunities – most of which require change to the organizational structure and its employee functioning. The greatest determinant of the future success of an organization is the CEO and leadership team’s ability to address change by formulating and articulating a clear vision and carefully-crafted strategic reactions.
Change in complex organizations requires management of the interplay of emotions and cognitive processes. Managers, on the whole, lack the knowledge and background to deal with imminent and forced organizational changes. The modern, dynamic business environment requires large numbers of changes to be made during any given year, from an ever-widening range of change choices. Without training in this area, managers often resist change or avoid organizational transformation effort. When faced with the need to change, resistive actions on the part of the organization’s leaders can precipitate a process that results in rapid deterioration of the organization. Sound knowledge of organizational change processes, on the other hand, allows leaders to view change as an opportunity that can be guided and managed for greater gains.
From these two different approaches to organizational change – change resistance or change management – two differing belief systems emerge. The belief of the “change resistant” manager is that change will bring instability, upheaval, unpredictability, threat and disorientation; the “change embracer,” on the other hand, sees change as an opportunity — a chance for rejuvenation and innovation as well as progress and growth. In effect, the difference in the two approaches is a that of viewing change from a perspective of fear and anxiety, or from one of excitement and confidence.
From our experiences in organizations, there is no doubt that confident managers deal with change management most effectively. To arrive at a point where they are poised and assured of handling organizational changes, managers will have devoted themselves to constant and continuous learning. Dedicated learners gain the ability to gather large amounts of current knowledge that allows flexibility to react with dexterity and skill to crisis situations. Learning managers also come to know the culture of their organizations, and, consequently, are adept at persuading and reassuring employees to follow their lead in instituting change propositions.
From our many experiences of working as consultants in organizations, the professionals in my company have gleaned the following precepts of managing change:
1– STRUCTURE AND POSIT THE CHANGE PROPOSITION WELL
Managers need to be able to clearly and completely describe and justify the changes that they propose. In order to prepare their employees for change, they need to have researched the topic well in order to be able to clearly delineate: 1) the reason for the change; 2) the proposed actions to be taken; and 3) the expected results. Good data to support the need for change are critical. The data need to be provided, along with sources for employees to find background and technical information for the proposed changes on their own. Providing information sources for employees encourages an informed workforce and also promotes the growth of an organizational population of learners.
2 — ANTICIPATE RESISTANCE AND REACTION
The manager should know the employees and the organizational culture well enough to be able to anticipate those who will be resistant to change. Preparations for emotional reactions to change can be accomplished by developing strategies for use in specific situations. Change scenarios can offer sound operational approaches for most circumstances. If there are departments or other “pockets” of personnel who are likely to resist the changes, the manager and his staff will want to work with these members either in groups, or one-on-one, as appropriate.
3 — TALK OPENLY ABOUT THE CHANGE REACTIONS
The manager, or an expert hired to assist with the intricacies of individual behavior in change situations, will need to confront employee fears and reactions to the change. There is a need to talk openly about plans for change and the actions relating to the change as well as to work with individual employees to assist them in addressing their concerns. As a part of this process, employees will need to determine “what’s in it for me” — this might simply be that the company, and they along with it, will prosper under the new directions. Once there have been discussions to promote greater understanding, employees can begin to think seriously about their roles in the change process.
4 — INSPIRE TRUST AND TEAMWORK
The focus of the work with employees during the planning and initiation stages of change will be on engendering employee trust and inspiring teamwork. When goals are explained well and management credibility and integrity exists, it will be possible to transform employee reactions of anxiety to an endorsement of changes. Trust and team building is a topic requiring lengthy discussion, as there are prescriptive processes that will need to be followed. To accomplish this phase of change, leaders will need to research the topic well; or, alternatively, employ experts who can guide the organization’s members through formal teambuilding and organizational development processes.
5 — ALLOW OWNERSHIP OF THE CHANGE PROCESS
The desired outcome for teambuilding is to have employees feel that they own the change process as well as the path that is to be traveled to secure the change. Great value is derived from the employee dedication and rejuvenation that comes from feeling ownership of the change process. When an employee is feeling in charge of the process and of his own fate, there is certainty that the desired change will be accomplished. This level of confidence also fosters inspiration, new ideas, and innovative ways of doing things that result in a high rate of overall achievement.
6 — LEADERS MUST LEAD
Throughout the change process, from the planning. . . to the introduction of change . . . to the implementation, the leader must lead. That is, employees must be convinced, in both words and actions, that the leader is fully behind the change processes. Members of the organization must be able both to know and to sense that the direction of change is well understood and highly endorsed by the leader, and that the leader harbors no doubts about the proposed course of action leading to greater organizational benefit and commercial gain for the organization. Good information about the organization’s position and the need for change, a clear plan for action, and absolute faith in the success of the actions to be undertaken will be interpreted positively by employees. A leader that proposes change must be certain of the commitment and skill in leading the change efforts. It is for these challenging change efforts that confident leaders are most needed.
In summary: A leader must be willing to embrace the organizational change management processes with clarity and enthusiasm; must have identified the need for change through avid learning processes; must be able to transmit a commitment to the change as well as to one’s employees throughout the process; must be willing to work with individuals, groups and teams to establish the right path to accomplish the change; must be willing to share the ownership of the change processes and to compromise and deviate, where needed, from the original plans in order to ensure that others assume important roles in the process. And, above all, the leader must exhibit the courage and conviction that engenders respect and confidence from others in the organization; that allays most doubts; and that inspires employees to greater levels of performance and accomplishment.
Nine out of ten strategies fail to be implemented successfully. We are starting to understand the very important lesson that implementing strategy is harder than creating the right strategy from the study of success and failures of previous strategy implementations.
When we triumph over implementation it can become a blue ocean strategy – that is a competitive differentiation and while there are many tools and techniques for crafting strategy there are very few for implementing it. Rosabeth Moss Kanter put it very eloquently when she said: “Ethical standards and our ability to groom future leaders inevitably decline. That’s why execution, or “making it happen,” is so important. Execution is the un-idea; it means having the mental and organizational flexibility to put new business models into practice, even if they counter what you’re currently doing. That ability is central to running a organization right now. So rather than chasing another new management fad, or expecting still another “magic bullet” to come along, organizations should focus on execution to effectively use the organizational tools we already have.”
To further support Rosabeth Moss Kanter comment, consider the fact from Barons that only 15% of the 974 programs reviewed in Fiscal 2005 were rated effective.
In addition, from 1917 to 1987 only 39 of the original Forbes 100 survived and only two outperformed the market, GE and Eastman Kodak.
Many strategies are expected to deliver growth. This creates even more issues due to the “Growth Paradox”. As businesses grow they create new and larger challenges which again emphasizes the need to be good at strategy implementation.
It is time to switch the focus from just crafting strategy to crafting and implementing it. If for no other reason, it is estimated that U.S. managers spend more than $10 billion annually on strategic analysis and strategy formulation. If 90% fail then that is a waste of $9 billion.
Strategy implementation is a relative new field that’s genesis was the high failure rate and lack of a framework. The field is about 10 years old and the research on the subject is just being gathered. There has been various research:
1. Kaplan and Norton, the originators of the Balance Scorecard, published also that 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully.
2. In a study of 200 organizations in the Times 1000, 80% of directors said they had the right strategies but only 14% thought they were implementing them well, no doubt linked to the finding that despite 97% of directors having a ‘strategic vision’, only 33% reported achieving ‘significant strategic success’. (Source: Why do only one third of UK organizations achieve strategic success?)
3. Harvard Business School teaches that at least 70% of all change initiatives fail.
4. A long term study by Newcastle University, (1973 – 1989) showed that business success is governed more by how well strategies are implemented than how good the strategy is to begin with.
5. The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that organizations realize only around 60% of their strategy’s potential value because of failures in planning and execution.
With the pendulum now swinging away from leader’s main responsibility of crafting the strategy to the recognition that they are also responsible also for its implementation and that can be even harder, there is a fast growing global interest in the field.
Strategy implementation is defined as the actions an organization takes today to deliver the strategy, tomorrow. The key word is “action”. People in an organization are always taking action.
The critical question is, “Is it the right action?” Are the actions that their staff members are taking today driving the implementation forward? We know staff members are always busy and frequently have more work than they have hours in the day but strategy implementation is the collective individual actions taken every minute of every day by every staff member. If there are not enough of the right actions being taken then the strategy is heading for the graveyard.
“One of top management’s biggest blind spots is the failure to recognize that any significant shift in strategy requires changes in day-to-day activities throughout the organization. Small shifts may require only minor changes. Significant shifts require significant changes-from subtle to sweeping-that can only be successful if implemented systematically. And people at all levels can either help or hinder the transition.”
Executing Your Strategy, Morgan, Levitt & Malek
Leader’s also have a fundamental responsibility to create the right conditions in the organizations. They must, for example, encourage the right people; clearly communicate the strategy objectives, create the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); align the culture to the implementation; redesign processes, change the way staff members are reinforced to encourage the right behaviors and actions for the new strategy to be implemented and then review the strategy implementation every two weeks. This can be an overwhelming list but if it was easy to deliver the promises of a new strategy then nine out of ten implementations would not fail. And the pass mark is when the leaders deliver at least 50% of the objectives of the new strategy.
The leaders must identify what needs to be done and where to put the organization’s focus.
Although it is not unheard of for two organizations to have the same strategy, for example number one in the industry or differentiate through customer service or leading product, each organization’s implementation of the strategy is unique and the leader must first identify what needs to be done and then lead staff members to perform the required behaviors and actions. The leader’s role is to translate the strategy in to daily actions that staff members can take. Strategy implementation is not the same as change management.
Change management is a systematic approach to dealing with change, both from the perspective of an organization and on the individual level. It is applied as the solution for running out a new sales program as it is for strategy. Strategy implementation is a specific approach which drives the right actions today to deliver tomorrow’s strategy. The challenge is for leaders to stop doing what doesn’t work.
Change management is flawed as a methodology for implementing strategy as the research is revealing. If we keep doing the same thing then no wonder we keep failing and the strategy fails! It is time to change the way we think about change. We must go beyond change management as we know it and focus on implementation.
Consider that 30 years ago management was about control and change management was designed as command and control. But business has dramatically changed. We have moved to empowerment and a teaming methodology. Many leaders use change management out of ignorance, as they are not aware of an alternative and end up taking the wrong the actions.
After crafting the strategy for the organization’s future the leader’s role is to ensure that staff members are set up for success in its implementation by being guided by the leadership on what actions to take. The problem on many occasions is that even the leaders do not know what the right actions to take are. In addition leaders often have the wrong mindset. Leaders often underestimate the implementation challenge and what is involved. They believe that once they have created a new strategy, the hardest part is over. Not true. The hardest part – implementation – is just beginning.
In the 10 per cent of organizations that successfully implement their strategies the leaders double the effort compared to what they had spent crafting it. In some cases, leaders are cognizant that implementation requires extra effort. In reality, however, very few are able to free up valuable time and resources to do justice to the implementation process. In other cases, leaders become so caught up in managing the day-to-day business that they lose sight of their goal to implement the new strategy and as such are taking the wrong actions.
The research in the field of strategy implementation started to become part of the mainstream awareness in 1999 when Fortune Magazine ran a front page on “Why CEO’s Fail”. The article, which has since been quoted on numerous occasions, explained that “organizations fail to successfully implement strategy not because of bad strategy but because of bad execution”. This was one of the first times the field of implementation (execution and implementation are interchangeable), had received major exposure.
In 2002 Ram Charan followed up the article by co-authoring with Larry Bossidy Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Crown Business, 2002. The book made execution a common word in business conversations. Since its publications there has been a greater focus on the topic by leaders and a handful of books and articles have followed on the same topic.
There is, however, still a vast gap of knowledge, techniques and tools in the field.
For much of the last 40 years the focus in business has been how to create the right strategy and quite rightly. It is the leader’s responsibility to create strategy, it is what they are paid the big bucks for and it is critical to the success of the organization that they get it right. A plethora of tools and techniques have been created to assist in the strategy formulation. Hundreds and even thousands of books have been written on the topic and in every city, consultants are standing by to offer leaders their support and wisdom.
As a result we have improved at understanding strategy and how to create it. Although it is worth noting that even strategy is still being developed. Consider the simple fact that we do not have a globally common definition for the word “strategy”.
There is a change in the wind. In the last ten years we have started to ask, “What happens after we create the strategy and why are there so many failed strategy implementations?” These questions are just starting to be asked because we are just discovering from the research that so many strategy implementations fail.
Instinctively most leaders know that implementation is tough and can recall at least one corporate wide implementation; they participated in, that failed. It is, however, only in the last few years that strategy implementation has started to become a recognized field in its own right. We are starting to understand that implementation fails not because we have the wrong strategy, in most cases, but because the challenge of implementing the strategy is tougher than most CEOs and leaders anticipate and they underestimate the whole challenge.
Professor Joseph Bowler of Business Administration at Harvard Business School http://harvardbusiness.org/ recently said, “One of the criticisms we would have of some of our colleagues who have studied strategy (and some consultants who advice on strategy) is that they assume that once you design strategy it gets executed. They don’t look inside the process and realize that it’s much more complicated.”