Two of our country’s top rated management experts, according to Business Week,
Two of our country’s top rated management experts, according to Business Week, offered surprisingly simple insights regarding the top problem today.
David Ulrich, a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan states the biggest challenge is strategic implementation or the inability to establish and implement solid strategic plans.
Ram Charan, a coach to a handful of America’s most successful CEOs, likewise says the big issue today is bad strategic implementation. Ram stresses “it is as simple as that: not getting things done, being indecisive, not delivering on commitments.”
SO WHAT CAN BEST HELP?
The simple factor that helps to ensure organizational success to establish effective strategies and implement those strategies is to have a system of positive accountability throughout the organization.
Marcus Buckingham, in his book “The One Thing You Need to Know” states that “great leaders rally people to a better future.” Marcus shares that what defines a leader is his preoccupation with the future. A leader carries a vivid image of what the future could be, and this image drives him on. An individual is a leader if, and only if, he is restless for change, optimistic about the future, determined, impatient for progress, deeply dissatisfied with the status quo, and able to rally others to a better future he sees.
Prominent leadership guru Jim Collins summarizes in the article “Good to Great” the results of a five-year study. He and his team scoured a list of 1,435 established companies to find every extraordinary case that made a leap from average results to great results. The results of this study amazingly point to the need for simple, sustained, broad-based focus and execution. Two highlights of findings include:
- “There was no miracle moment. Instead, a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process — a framework — kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul. In each case, it was victory of steadfast discipline over the quick fix.”
- “When people begin to feel the magic of momentum — when they begin to see tangible results and can feel the flywheel start to build speed — that’s when they line up, throw their shoulders to the wheel, and push. And that’s how change really happens.”
Ram Charan stresses that in addition to leadership and discipline, great CEOs hold people accountable. Accountability is always the key to getting anything accomplished, or strategic implementation, – in either corrupt or noble organizations.
There are two extremes when it comes to models of organizational accountability. Both models are destructive in the long-term.
Some organizations thrive on negative accountability or fear. In these organizations, the threat of losing a job is the universal motivation. Employees are often dumped upon or used and accountability becomes a disguise for a culture of blame. Employees become disgruntled in a fear-based organization when they feel constantly compelled or threatened.
On the other hand, some organizations advocate a permissive environment with limited accountability. Productive employees lose motivation when they learn that their contributions aren’t utilized and aligned. Less productive employees start to develop entitlement mentalities. Promotions begin to be awarded to those who speak well, have presence and charisma and who don’t stir the pot. Such organizations can dampen industry, tear down character, and demoralize people.
The most important questions an organization can ask itself are, “what type of accountability is most appropriate? What approach will create positive results for both the organization and its employees?”
SIMPLE FOCUS FIRST
Stephan Haines, a top strategic planning expert, says that “simplicity is on the other side of complexity.” Also, he says that, “simplicity always wins.”
Highly effective CEOs start by focusing on a few critical initiatives that are clear and specific. They don’t launch a new initiative until those in progress are embedded in the company’s DNA. For instance, Jack Welch introduced just five major initiatives in eighteen years as CEO at G.E.
In a seminal article called “Beware the Busy Manager,” Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal report on a ten year study they conducted of the behavior of busy managers. They found that, fully 90 percent of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. A mere 10 percent of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner. Both focus and energy are critical traits. Together, they produce the kind of purposeful action organizations need most.
To establish positive accountability there are basic underlying requirements. An organization must first define, stay committed to, and be clear about its expectations. Expectations are often conveyed in the form of measurable goals, operations, and values.
A system of accountability ensures that there are mutually understood expectations, progress is being made at an agreeable pace, and, quality levels are being met. A system of positive accountability considers both the needs of the organization and of its employees. It ensures that win/win is a reality and not just a concept.
Truly effective leaders understand their people. They understand the talents and passion of their employees. Most importantly, they align talents and passions with the required work to create success.
Understanding what is important to employees is essential. Interestingly, according to a Gallup research project that expanded over 25 years, the most significant factor in attracting, focusing, and keeping employees is a clear understanding of expectations. This simple finding dovetails with the Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model that specifies that physiological and safety needs are basic requirements for all. Knowing what is expected is vital for employees – so they can know that their basic needs can be addressed.
Employees also need to belong, to be accepted, and to have self-esteem in their skills. These insights tie into the Gallup research as well. According to the research, employees need:
- Materials and equipment to do their job
- The opportunity to do what they do best every day
- To receive frequent (at least weekly) recognition or praise for doing good work
- To know that their supervisor cares about them as a person. Someone to encourage their development
- To know that their opinions count
- To feel that the mission of the company is noble
- The opportunity to discuss the progress of their work
- The opportunity to learn and grow
ONE-ON-ONES & TEAM PROGRESS REVIEWS
One-on-ones and team progress reviews are at the heart of a system of positive accountability. If conducted correctly and frequently enough, they ensure that there is organization alignment, that the organization is meeting its objective, and that the employees are growing and reaching their potential.
About the Author
David Willden has been a senior executive with top management and technology consulting firms. David is currently President of Breakthrough Practices , a firm that consults on breakthrough strategies, innovations, and execution. He has founded Strategy-Keys.com (http://strategy-keys.com) – a popular site on best practices and insights on business strategy & execution.