The purpose of strategic planning is not to make plans. It’s to change the way we think and act. If our newly formed visions and strategic plans are intended to propel us to places where we’ve never been, at a very personal level, we’ll be required to do things individually that we’ve never done. Successful strategy execution is all about behaviors. The act will trump the thinking every time.
Several years ago, my team and I spent six months helping a Fortune 500 company prepare their strategic plan for launch at a meeting of several hundred top leaders. Then, for three days we worked with those leaders, discussing the merits of the plan and the critical actions required to achieve the desired results. The group seemed to be engaged.
Just before the close of the three-day meeting, we wanted to orchestrate a rousing send-off. We gave each person an audience response device so they could anonymously vote on how confident they felt about the strategic plan. We actually wanted to judge the leaders advocacy by asking: “how many of you would advise your family members to buy our stock based on your confidence in our strategy”. We had assumed that we had won their sponsorship and strong support. What flashed on the screen after three days of intense conversation was a stunning 19% vote of confidence by the top leaders of this 53,000-person company!
After the shock wore off, we probed the leaders who attended for the reasons behind this skepticism. We quickly found out that their lack of confidence was based solely on the all-too-transparent hypocrisy between what the new company direction claimed to be and the way senior leaders continued to exhibit “old strategy behaviors.” Once the senior leaders got the message and took a good look in the mirror to correct their personal behaviors, the strategy took off and the stock price doubled.
Another large Fortune 100 company we partnered with embarked on a bold business transformation. They spent hours analyzing market data, market positions, growth opportunities, and margin possibilities. They carefully crafted a robust strategy to drive a “thinking differently” part of the overall plan. As they deployed the strategic plan to the top 225 leaders of the company and sought to enlist their leadership, we heard a single resounding theme: “The strategy is not the problem. It’s the fundamental disbelief that leaders will change their behaviors so we can bring the strategy to life.” They too stressed the “behavioral proof points” that would build or deflate confidence in the future strategy.
The problem in cases like these is that deeply embedded traditional behaviors tend to persist, and they change far more slowly than marketplace factors and new strategic thinking. Speed of leader behavior change becomes the pace car for strategy execution.
There are three key areas of focus that constantly turbo-charge this organizational change race.
Originally Posted on Linked In By: Jim Haudan
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