One of the great challenges in executing a strategic plan is getting the team to perform and be motivated by the strategy. Indeed, strategic performance in implementation is the achilles heel of strategic planning. It’s common to hear people say “We did strategic planning, but it didn’t change anything.” Obviously, the way you approach strategic planning should be oriented to getting better strategic performance from your whole organization. It turns out that by looking at things that enhance individual performance, we can find corollaries in team performance that are very useful for executing your strategic plan.
We often pay so much attention to the strategy that we disregard the challenges of execution. By thinking about how you can enhance the performance of your executive team in strategy implementation, we can achieve much better results.
There are three main elements that will increase your teams performance in a strategic plan. These elements are
- Midpoint goals.
- Visualizing immediate success.
- Framing a strategy uniquely.
Strategic Performance from Mid-point goals
Focusing on midpoint goals is common sense in many situations. If you are looking for a spouse, you don’t run into a crowd of people and start introducing yourself as a prospective future spouse. A commonsense approach to this is to take the process in steps. That means you start with an introduction. Once you are introduced, you don’t propose marriage – you propose a date, and then maybe some more dates. There are two reasons why this works. First, we make much better progress if we work towards the small steps that lead to the big change. Second, people can feel overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible large goal. While some people who thrive on an audacious goal, most people will feel overwhelmed. They may not take action on an audacious goal unless you give them concrete steps that they can take today that way I have a payoff in the near future.
In Simplified Strategic Planning, we achieve this result in two ways. First, we set annual objectives that are possibly intermediary steps to achieving the longer-term vision. Second, we create action plans by splitting those objectives into smaller, more easily attained steps.
Strategic Performance from Visualization
The next approach, visualizing success, has some excellent examples available in real world business. For example, consider the pink Cadillac used at Mary Kay cosmetics. Leading salespeople are shown pink Cadillacs owned by higher level salespeople in the organization. These pink Cadillacs are awarded by the organization to salespeople who surpass $1 million in sales. At sales events, salespeople are encouraged to experience the reward. They don’t just look at the pink Cadillac but get behind the wheel and imagine themselves getting one of these for exceeding $1 million in sales. This visualization creates an immediacy of the reward and starts the brain down the pathways that lead to the ultimate achievement.
A skilled facilitator will use this visualization technique in several points in the strategic planning process. For example, when thinking of opportunities, it’s useful to ask the team to imagine a successful future. By thinking about how they reach that point, the team will have an easier way to identify strategically useful opportunities.
Strategic Performance from Re-framing
The third technique, reframing is as useful as a strategic tool as it is as a motivation and performance tool. The idea here is to reframe what your company is doing. It’s best to do this uniquely so that people think of themselves as doing something interesting and unusual. The reason this is often a good strategy tool, is that reframing often helps reorient the organization. For strategic purposes, we want to move towards an entirely different approach to competing in the marketplace with this new orientation. A good example of this is Southwest Airlines in the 1980s. Southwest famously began thinking of themselves not as competing with other airlines, but as competing with the bus and the train. This reframing was built around and understanding of competing and serving the fundamental need of the customer, rather than focusing on the way that need is met.
Strategic Performance Improvement
The application of each of these three approaches has been demonstrated to improve individual performance. In Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World, by Emily Balcetis, we see examples of controlled studies of individual performance varying tasks, whether athletic or mental in nature. These studies showed that these three techniques can measurably improve how well people perform. By using these techniques with your team, you should also be able not just to motivate the individuals in the team but you enhance the performance and the alignment of your entire management team.
If you would like to apply these approaches to your own strategic plan in a way that will yield better implementation and more effective growth and profitability, click on the link below to attend our next virtual program on strategic thinking, or contact us to discuss how we can actually turn this into reality in your organization through the strategic planning process