By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO
Note: This article was originally posted in Compass Points in May 2006. We are discussing the root causes of poor implementation in a series of posts. Part 4 covers the fourth root cause of poor implementation.
Managers change their objectives too quickly
In some companies, the main strategy implementation amounts to a kind of corporate “short attention span”. Many of these companies don’t make much headway in their strategy implementation because they are never heading in one direction long enough for the strategy to pick up steam.
A common symptom of this implementation issue is a company that seems to be perpetually in the middle of dramatic changes. In a company with a sound, consistent strategy, change is occurring, but change tends to flow around the strategy, because the strategy represents a stable, unchanging reality, such as “Starbucks customers like good coffee in a good environment”.
Another symptom is the classic “flavor of the month” syndrome, where the company shifts direction every month or two based upon the viewpoint of the management guru that is currently in favor with the top executives. This is a dangerous problem, as many of today’s management gurus espouse strategic outlooks that are diametrically opposed. For example, “The Experience Economy” espouses a strong, service-centered specialty strategy, while “Nuts!” centers on a focused commodity strategy. You might succeed in shoehorning both of these outlooks into one company, but you are just as likely to end up with a train wreck.
The annual planning process, and strict discipline around that process, is the best antidote we know to “short attention span”. The key here is to make sure you have sound strategic reasons for every change you make in your objectives (and no, “there’s a lot of money to be made” is NOT a sound strategic reason). Likewise, test every change against the wisdom that is inherent in your own strategy. If it fits, great – but when it doesn’t, be very wary of making changes because of small, temporary changes in your marketplace or (worse) your reading list.
In the upcoming weeks, we will discuss other root causes of poor implementation.
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