One thing I have noticed in my years of doing business turnarounds, is that it is not at all unusual for leaders to come up with a vision and direction, but fail to drive that vision throughout the organization and make it actionable.

What leaders often forget is that most people in the organization are far removed from the executive suite and are not closely plugged into the issues the organization is facing or the ways in which the business landscape is changing.  So, when they DO hear of a direction or a plan, it is often out of context and it does not mean much to them to say nothing of being able to figure out the steps to get there.

Without motivating and mobilizing everyone in the organization in the same direction, you are unlikely to achieve the results you desire.

This is an important issue for leaders to come to terms with.  It is the bulk of the workforce that is going to make those plans a reality.  Everyone must be clear on their role in getting to those goals.  They have to understand what it means in their day-to-day jobs.

INTEGRATION

This needs to begin as a bottoms up process in which key people are involved in developing the vision, as discussed in the last post.  Once synthesized into an overarching direction, the process of translating those plans to actions becomes an iterative one from top to bottom, back up to the top, and back down to the bottom in which you are:

  • ensuring the appropriate level of understanding of the overarching direction;
  • developing the specific actions (at all levels and across all functions to move in that direction); and,
  • integrating all the action plans to ensure that they are aligned and support each other. 

COMMUNICATION

As a starting point you must ensure that all stakeholders are clear on what that vision is.  They have contributed to it.  They have been part of the discussions that have gotten you to that vision.  But, are they clear on the final outcome of that process?  Does everyone understand what the finished product is?  You must communicate it effectively…with clarity and enthusiasm.  It is also a good time to point out their contributions to that finished product to show them that you were listening and to cement their buy-in. 

There is a lot more to the whole subject of communications in this area, and I will get to that in the next post.

CASCADE DOWN

The next step requires each part of the organization, whether it is departments, business units, or country operations, to translate that vision into strategies and action plans complete with due dates and responsible individuals.  Each department needs to understand the strategies, be clear on how they contribute to them, and what they must do to support them. 

  • What specific actions can they take to support them? 
  • What is the timing necessary to orchestrate this activity?
  • Who will be responsible and what resources will they need to get it done?

BUBBLE UP

The process then must utilize a rigorous schedule of reviews to ensure that the strategies and tactics across departments make sense and are agreed by everyone.  Most importantly, they must be coordinated and connected so that they build on one another and move the entire organization in the same direction.

FOLLOW THE SCRIPT

Finally, once this is all agreed and aligned, you have a script which defines all the actions you plan to take to achieve those goals and that direction.  

Now leadership at all levels needs to live it…

  • be aware of the priorities;
  • make decisions in line with those priorities;
  • remain abreast of progress against those objectives;
  • dedicate resources as appropriate to achieve those goals;
  • communicate progress to all stakeholders.

DRIVE EXECUTION. 

Driving execution never stops.  As the leader, whether you are the CEO, a director, manager or first line supervisor, you must always be setting priorities, allocating resources, coordinating efforts, and communicating progress.  Most importantly, you must be pushing people to carry out the plans on schedule…finding ways to get it done…ensuring that all parts of the organization are moving forward in lock step.

You may notice a common theme developing over these last few posts…successful leadership requires strong process, systems thinking and involvement of stakeholders.  It seems simple, and to some degree it is…strong process and involvement of stakeholders.  In other ways it is complex, particularly when it comes to balancing the conflicting interests of your stakeholders.  There are always trade-offs…and in a dynamic world, the variables affecting your decisions are always changing.

In the next post I will address communications of the plan and building a common understanding.  Later on we will get to monitoring progress and managing performance.