“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do” – Steve Jobs
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, a whopping 95% of employees are unaware of, or do not understand their company’s strategy. The article also states that CEOs and the senior management team do not know what the majority of employees are working on on any given day. And if you are communicating your strategy via email, chances are that the majority won’t even read it – according to a report by Finance Online, 74% of employees miss out on the most important company communication.
A recent Gartner report outlines that 40% of executive leaders say that their enterprise leadership is not aligned, and 67% of key functions are not aligned with business units and corporate strategies. It also states that 67% of employees do not understand their role when new growth initiatives are launched.
Cost of lost productivity is approximately $1.8 billion according to Finance Online, low engagement costs US companies $350 billion in revenue every year according to 15Five, and Gallup reports that only 15% of employees across the world are actively engaged in their job.
That is a staggering amount of wasted dollars and effort.
This reflects what I hear from my professional students, and experience with my clients. The Project Management Institute “Pulse of the Profession” report also backs this up with data on what causes projects to fail. According to the 2021 report, the top reason for project failure is changes in the organization’s priorities. The impact of this then cascades from there, with poor requirements gathering, changing objectives, poor planning and inadequate scope management also contributing to project failure.
I often also see a gap in expectations with respect to what is involved in executing the work – what it will really take to implement a new solution, or migrate from one business application to another, or move to a cloud platform for example.
Executives who do not have access to a visual dashboard that shows the portfolio of work that is in progress at any given time, are essentially “flying blind”. When they talk to their managers or project leaders, they may hear that everyone is “slammed”, however there is no hard data to back this up. Without a visual roadmap that shows the projects that employees are allocated to, and the effort associated with those projects, it can be challenging to draw a line between the busy work that everyone is doing, and the actual strategy that will make a difference for the organization.
We tend to believe that the relationship between strategy and execution is straightforward: a clean, clear path building to inevitable success. The truth, as always, is messier. Execution is rarely clean-cut and linear. Initiatives get twisted, lost, paused, or derailed, and projects die in the gaps between strategy and execution.
These gaps between strategy and execution can be patched with short-term measures: quick switch to focus on a “new” priority, holds placed on other necessary work, schedules pushed out, resources “borrowed” from other projects, and pure force of will – “we will get through it!”.
These “duct tape” solutions can work in the short run — but they’re often weak, brittle, and prone to unexpected failure.
Far better to build permanent bridges and redundant pathways between strategy and execution, so your team can be successful with every project.
Doing this work isn’t always easy — but it’s well worth the time and effort. As you strip the duct tape out of your leadership processes, you’ll be able to:
✅ Focus your team on the right work at the right time
✅ Develop support structures and resourcing systems that lead to success
✅ Create productive team environments that produce quality work
✅ Align your team’s work with the organizational strategy
I published a series of articles about what I called “duct tape leadership” — the just-in-time fixes and patched-together solutions that project teams end up using when their work is out of alignment with the organization’s priorities. These are even more relevant today after a second year of disruption. You can dive into the series here.
As we look towards 2022, this is the perfect time to find the duct tape in your organization and make plans for replacing it with stronger, more flexible structures.
As Peter Drucker, “the founder of modern management” said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.
If you cannot see what your team is working on, then you will have a hard time evaluating if the work they are so busy doing will actually make a difference for your organization.
Are they doing the right work and is this the right time for that work?
I recently read John Doerr’s book titled “Measure What Matters” on how to use OKRs – objectives and key results – to develop strategic objectives, set clear priorities, set ambitious goals and track & measure to achieving those goals. The OKR framework – when used correctly – can help align teams, and bridge the strategy – execution gap.
I had used OKRs in the past, however I didn’t do this for 2021, and honestly, I can see how that resulted in a lack of clear focus and action. Re-energized, I made a commitment to using this framework for my 2022 strategic objectives, and then set about doing just that.
To make this easier for you all to implement on your teams and in your organization, I created a template for OKR planning and execution that will help you define and then execute your strategic objectives. The template contains a step-by-step process, along with the knowledge and context you need to start doing this with your team. It also contains recommendations on how to develop a plan to manage the people side of this change with your teams – as with all initiatives where you are hoping to transform people’s behaviors, you will want to manage that as an organizational change initiative.
I recorded a short webinar to provide some background and outline how you can easily get started. Check it out here, and then download the free template from Pie (you can set up a free account) and let me know how you will use this or what questions you may have.
You could start simply, with setting OKRs for your own professional development — which is a great idea for everyone to set measurable goals and targets so they can take responsibility for their own career development — or start with a small program or team, or maybe at your executive leadership level to set clear strategic objectives for 2022. Pick something small and achievable to get started and then just do it.
To accelerate your outcomes and results, link your prioritized strategic objectives to your operational and project work so you can see what your teams are working on in real-time.
When you see it, you can measure it and then you can improve it.
Having a clear strategy, and linking to the work your team is doing facilitates informed decision making around priorities, ensuring that your team is working on the right work at the right time, to achieve the right outcomes for your organization.
Dashboard from www.pie.me