In the last six weeks I led strategic planning sessions for three successful companies in Maryland, Florida and North Carolina.
Three different industries.
Three different cultures.
Three different sets of problems and opportunities.
What these three companies now have in common is a customized plan to address their unique needs. What’s more, their plan will help them navigate the 10 biggest issues that prevent all organizations from achieving the improved performance leaders say they want.
My book Lead The Way outlines a simple planning process for developing a strategic plan. I believe the plan should be simple and straightforward precisely because executing any plan is so challenging. My book also provides insights about effective execution.
Over the years I’ve identified 10 hurdles that trip leaders as they work to turn their plans into profits. You can download for free Top 10 Performance Hurdles.
Here are the 10 performance hurdles:
Goals fail to address meaty issues or they’re unattainable. You and your team must discuss and fix the real problems that hinder performance. Sugarcoating problems won’t help you improve. And while I support the notion of a “stretch goal,” your team must believe there’s a reasonable chance to achieve it. Nothing kills morale faster than a target that’s impossible to hit.
Goals are poorly defined and lack clarity. Without specific, measurable objectives you and your team will be unable to track organizational, departmental and individual performance. If you have the right people on your team, they want to see progress.
Lack of real commitment to the plan. The leadership team must commit to executing the plan that’s been developed otherwise don’t expect the rest of the organization to execute the plan. Without commitment, it will be back to business as usual within 30 days, and your planning session will have been a huge waste of time.
Lack of clear responsibilities with the right people. Your plan must clearly and concisely articulate Who is doingWhat by When for How Much for what Expected Result. Lack of clarity equals Lack of accountability.
Wrong people in the right positions…or right people in the wrong positions. Companies historically hire for skill and fire for attitude. What would happen to performance in your organization if you reversed this thinking? Is it possible some of your good people are in the wrong positions or working for the wrong people?
Lack of money to execute. Your most significant priorities should command your greatest budget investment. If these priorities are important, it’s time to either allocate the money to make them happen or to stop pretending they matter.
Lack of time to execute. Proper planning helps you identify the three or four most significant priorities that will deliver the results you want. Make time for these priorities. Other opportunities are secondary.
Lack of discipline to execute the plan. The plan may need to be adapted, but do not get distracted from executing your plan by the next “great idea.” Too many great ideas will dilute your performance. Learn to say “no” or “not now.”
Failure to set and follow performance consequences. How do you reward achievement? How do you penalize under-performance? Do your people know what’s in it for them? Reward those that perform. Address under-performers or risk setting a double-standard that will turn off your stars.
Changing market conditions. Yes, this is a big hurdle. But of the 10 hurdles that block effective performance, the first nine are within your direct control. You can decide how good you want to be. If you don’t enjoy a 50% or better share of the market, stop blaming market conditions and get to work.
Stop the Insanity
We’re all familiar with Einstein’s quote about insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The problems that strangle organizational effectiveness are the same ones I see over and over again.
Perhaps Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote is more accurate: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
So stop the insanity in your organization. Break the cycle. Fix the problems that strangle effectiveness.
About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents, and he coaches leaders inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book—Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) — is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.