Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Hesitation Kills
On your mark. Get set. Go!

OK - Now what?

Execute. That's what.

Execute what?

The strategy.

OK, how?

Strategy "making" is obviously a very important aspect of any good business.

It's cool. It usually involves "Offsite Meetings" in fun places, with a certain amount of party time otherwise known as networking. It can also make or break a company. The problem lies in the fact that everyone who is someone wants to go to the party, but no one wants to clean up afterwards.

In other words, everyone wants to be a part of the planning process, but no one really wants to do the dirty work of actually implementing the plan. The reality, according to leading strategy guru, Laurence Hrebiniak, is that now, more than ever, is the time to focus you organization on the execution of the plan.

A rash of business books have been written including Laurence Hrebiniak's book "Making Strategy Work", extolling the virtues of execution.
The underlying message?

You've had plenty of time to plan now it's time to pack up the overheads, put away the names tags, catch the plane home and get to work.

The Journey of 1,000 miles

Taking that first step can be a tough one.

The truth of the matter is, the vast majority of management education is focused on the planning, not the doing. Therefore, is it any wonder that, once a manager is asked to actually get to work, there is a sense of hesitation and a lot of second guessing?

There is an old saying that "hesitation causes fear, fear causes death".

Without a doubt, this undeniable axiom seems to be lost on far too many managers. They hesitate. They pass the buck. They make excuses. They delegate to others. They defer and, in the process, they become timid.

They do just what they can - but not a lot more.

The key, as a leader, is to understand this variable (perhaps even "plan" for it) and ensure that your support network is intact and ready to assist you.

All Planned Up

So, you are now all planned up but there is nowhere to go.

In many cases, leaders and managers believe their role is to create the plan, and then pass the implementation down to their direct reports. However, to quote Hrebiniak, "implementation is the very essence of great managerial work".

This is not to say that the role of the manager is to plan as well as do every aspect of the business strategy. Far from it. Their role is to maintain a direct connection between the "planners" and "doers" to ensure the success of the plan.

Responsibility and Accountability

One of the great failures of most organizations is their inability to properly assign accountability and then delegate full responsibility. This situation arises out of an instinctual "drive" based on self-preservation. But, it is changing in some places. The truly great organizations understand that it is the responsibility of the organization, and its leaders at all levels, to develop a culture that rewards calculated risk taking, and allows for failure provided the intention was genuine and the execution well thought out.

Fostering a "safe" environment, where the emphasis is switched from a focus on the excellence of the plan to the excellence of the execution, is one of the safest bets you can make to drive effective implementation and make sure your strategy works.

In Our Opinion
The Beacon Group's Keys to the Successful Implementation of Business Strategy

Plan As mentioned, the plan is the starting point. To be sure that your plan is complete, there are two factors that must be addressed. First, the plan must be clear and presented in a way that is understandable by each and every employee in the organization. Second, the plan must have measurable objectives. Without question, the organization must be able to track progress from day one.

Break It Down - While planning, ensure that the process is broken down into short-term projects, with short-term goals. In addition to breaking things down, be sure that each component has an individual's name beside it to ensure clarity of responsibility and anchor accountability.

Support Accountability is a crucial component of ensuring that implementation is effective and flawless. However, the role of the leader is to maintain an open, supportive dialogue with every member of their team. The success of the plan is the leader's ultimate responsibility. Therefore, they must be coaching and assisting their team throughout the process to correct the course whenever necessary.

Tweak An organization's strategic intent is the long-term, virtually fixed goal. However, the strategic plan should be reviewed and adjusted on an ongoing basis. By constantly reviewing the plan, the people in the organization will recognize the importance of the plan, and their role in maintaining its implementation.

Our Monthly Rant
A Word on Excessive Caution

In their controversial book, "Why CEO's Fail", Dotlich and Cairo warn that one of the key derailers to success in business is "Excessive Caution". They warn of leaders whose performance can be summed up as careful, The next decision they make may be their first!

This type of "Ostrich Management" cannot be allowed in any organization today. Tom Peters says, "READY, FIRE, AIM", while other gurus, like Seth Godin, extol the strength of character displayed by leaders who try, and fail, but then learn from their failures and then try again.

Strategies are "built" to be used. If you, or your organization, are afraid of implementing, you can probably bet that your plan isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Snowballs are made to be thrown.

Rules are made to be broken.

Strategic plans are made to be implemented.
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