CEO Review: Pitfalls to Driving Strategy

One of the most important roles of a CEO is to set and communicate the strategic direction for the organisation. However, the CEO also needs to ensure that the strategy is executed effectively and consistently across all levels and functions. In my many conversations in the past 12 months with CEOs, the C-suite, and consultants to this level, it is notable how many spend huge amounts of time on strategy, on progress reviews, quarterly business reviews but very few spend the time on answering the question of ‘how do you execute the strategy’. So many quarterly business reviews (QBR), PowerPoints, Excels, data overload, ‘agreement in the room’ but then no systemic process or platform when everyone leaves the room. Other than regular one-on-ones, how do leaders see deep into their organisations and how do they control the execution? By control I mean how do CEOs visualise and measure progress of activities that contribute to the strategic company initiatives that must happen for the CEO to reach her or his goals? The adage of ‘if it can’t be measured it can’t be managed’ applies, and modern digital platforms for strategy now allow for CEOs to be much more in control of the strategic, business-critical imperatives which is after all what they are paid for – not for running business-as-usual. The platform for strategy is not the hard part, though it is overlooked as CEOs are more used to traditional methods of ‘driving’; the hard part is always ensuring teams align to the CEOs goals and drive their own teams’ with actions and milestones that will have a tangible effect on the goals and are the highest-gain actions (financial, shareholder value etc) that can be taken by that team at the time.

So, to avoid the pitfalls of lack of clarity, alignment, commitment, and accountability, the CEO (backed up by their C-suite) needs to examine the following five points:

  1. Clarify the strategy: Define and communicate the strategy in a simple, concrete, and relevant way that relates to the vision, mission, and values of the organisation; simplify it into Most Important Goals (MIGs); the fewer the clearer and the more chance of the organisation’s success. Make sure these MIGs are stretching the organisation enough into the ‘orange zone’ of growth and not just a rehashed business-as-usual plan.
  2. Align the strategy: Align the strategy with the culture and capabilities of the organisation, and involve and consult the employees and other stakeholders in the strategy formulation and implementation process. Ensure buy-in. Start with your C-suite peers; get alignment here first.
  3. Commit to the strategy: Inspire and motivate the employees to embrace and support the strategy and provide them with clear and realistic expectations and incentives. Build and maintain trust and respect with the employees and the leadership team. Build your initiatives into a digital platform such as Howwe, that clearly communicates how all teams will contribute to your MIGs.
  4. Account for the strategy: Monitor and enforce the strategy execution and performance, and establish and communicate clear and measurable objectives, indicators, and milestones for the strategy. Provide regular and constructive feedback and recognition to the employees and hold them accountable for their actions and results. Visualising ‘the plan’ in a beautifully simple platform such as Howwe enables employees and leaders to see progress, tick of activities that lead to growth, and gives team leads a methodology (via Acceleration Meetings) and a platform (such as Howwe) to give everyone the ability to execute efficiently and effectively on a regular basis.
  5. Adapt the strategy: Ensure that the strategy is flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and feedback, and make necessary adjustments and improvements as needed. A digital platform such as Howwe allows the leaders of your business at all levels to pivot extremely quickly; to spin up new ventures, mergers, geographies and generate fast alignment extremely quickly. If CEOs are leading in a non-digital way, the risk that they bear to their shareholders is being left behind in an increasingly competitive world. 

My recommendation to CEOs is that they should reflect on ‘am I/ are we really in control of the execution at all levels’, ‘can I and my leaders visualise at-a-glance the actions towards the plan’ and ‘are all critical actions happening to ensure on-time execution happens’? If CEOs don’t feel comfortable with answering these, perhaps it’s time to think about the execution side of the strategy equation and modernising the approach to it. Being brave enough to confront these questions will help avoid the pitfalls of poor performance in execution.

 

Communication barriers: Different teams may have different communication styles, preferences, and jargon, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. To improve communication, teams should establish clear and consistent channels, use common language and terminology, and share information and feedback regularly and openly.

– Role ambiguity: Different teams may have overlapping or unclear roles and responsibilities, which can cause confusion and frustration. To clarify roles, teams should define and communicate their goals, expectations, and deliverables, and coordinate their tasks and schedules.

– Cultural differences: Different teams may have different values, norms, and assumptions, which can affect their work styles, attitudes, and behaviors. To respect cultural differences, teams should learn about and appreciate each other’s backgrounds, perspectives, and preferences, and avoid stereotypes and biases.

– Conflict management: Different teams may have different interests, opinions, and preferences, which can lead to disagreements and disputes. To manage conflict, teams should adopt a collaborative and constructive approach, listen to and understand each other’s views, and seek win-win solutions.

– Team cohesion: Different teams may have different levels of trust, commitment, and collaboration, which can affect their performance and satisfaction. To enhance team cohesion, teams should build and maintain positive relationships, support and recognise each other’s contributions, and celebrate their achievements and successes.

– Ignoring the external environment: Some teams may focus too much on their own goals and plans, and neglect the changes and trends in their industry, market, or society. This can lead to losing competitive advantage, missing opportunities, or facing threats that they are not prepared for.

– Being overconfident or complacent: Some teams may have unrealistic or inflated expectations of their abilities, performance, or outcomes, and fail to acknowledge or address their weaknesses, risks, or challenges. This can lead to poor decisions, errors, or failures that could have been avoided or mitigated.

– Resisting change or innovation: Some teams may cling to their old ways of doing things, and reject or resist new ideas, methods, or technologies that could improve their efficiency, effectiveness, or quality. This can lead to stagnation, obsolescence, or irrelevance in a dynamic and competitive environment.

 

Article by Steve Bowhill, Howwe ANZ

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CEO Review: Pitfalls to Driving Strategy

One of the most important roles of a CEO is to set and communicate the strategic direction for the organisation. However, the CEO also needs