Bring the Strategy to Life
When leading change we speak about the hard stuff (systems, structures, technology, tools) and the soft stuff (talent, energy, leadership, culture), making the human side of the enterprise sound light, fluffy, almost harmless. As a result we underestimate the underlying power and possibilities of the human dimension.
Let’s call things what they are – tangible and intangible – and tangible things we can get our hands around. They can be measured and managed. They are the way we execute the strategy. The intangible things are messier, yet this is where you find the energy and creativity that give the strategy life.
Already in 1909, the American Machinist (what managers read at the time) noted, “One of the most important, if not the most important, and at the same time most elusive, difficult to handle and fickle materials the mechanical engineer has to deal with is the human material.” It is also the most precious material in the learning economy.
Human beings are the synapses of the organizational nervous system; an increasingly matrixed, multicultural, multinational, virtual system. Every connection must be primed to pass on vital information and mobilize action. More than ever, leadership is about relationships and results.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHES OF STRATEGY EXECUTION (1)
Imagine a gargantuan grid of tiny lightbulbs. You turn the switch expecting it to glow…but only 59 percent of the bulbs burn brightly. That’s the reality of the matrix. Yet we expect people to move swiftly, even when four out of ten connections are sluggish.
To improve the flow of energy, here are three ideas in no particular order: a. Stop pushing people to make promises they can’t keep and start creating genuine agreements. Human beings readily take on responsibility when they make promises willingly; b. Look across the network and identify leaders, formal and informal, who contribute at a high level. Connect them directly so they can keep things flowing; and c. Remember, it’s better to be trusted than to be liked!
The Leader Litmus Test
When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? If you pick up your device and check to-do’s or emails, you are not a leader.
Instead, try this for 30 days: As you wrap up the day, think about the one ahead and ask yourself: What are three vital interactions tomorrow? Then, upon waking, bring the key players to mind and think about how you might invest in the relationship. How might you create just a little more energy and direction around the things that matter.
Fact is, your job as a leader is not to get stuff done. It’s to help others get stuff done.
(1) Harvard Business Review: Why Strategy Execution Unravels - and What to Do About It by Don Sull, et. al.