Chasing two rabbits

Confucious once said: “The person who chases two rabbits catches neither”. The same goes with strategy and communication.

As you step into the new year…

Are you clear about the thing you’re working to achieve, personally? What is this year going to be about you conquering?

Is your workforce clear about the one thing your organization is working to achieve? If you asked at three levels within the organization would you get the same response?

Is it important that it’s this clear? Only if you plan on catching a rabbit.

This next year will come and go just as quickly regardless of whether you have a goal or not. The difference will be whether the year counted in terms of personal or strategic progression.

Building 2 Tribes

After you build a beautiful and conceptual strategy, everything flows through 2 groups of people:

1) Employees
2) Customers

Because of this, you have 2 major challenges:

1) Building a tribe of engaged employees
2) Building a tribe of loyal customers

It’s important to bear in mind that there is a deep contributory relationship between these two groups, and that your success is dependent on your success with the second. The importance of succeeding on both sides is significant:

1) Deeply engaged employees have a heightened level of ownership where they will do everything they can fo the benefit of the internal/external cusrtomers, and for the success of the organization as a whole.
2) Emotively loyal customers generate new customers, but they also contribute to the level of engagement that your employees have as well. When your customers are excited about what your organization is doing, it reinforces that employees are part of something important.

Enter the promoter flywheel (developed by Bain and Company)

Recognize the importance of building two tribes, not just one.

Promoter Flywheel

Establishing your first strategy management framework

If you’ve been tasked with building a strategy program, you have a lot to think about:

• The level of CEO and executive commitment you are working with, and the level of understanding of the critical role strategy management should play.

• Architecting an overall process that:
1) Results in incredible clarity around what your organization is working to achieve
2) Maintains a dual focus on long-term positioning and client strategy
3) Engages leadership consistently throughout the year
4) Translates the strategy into the specific improvements that will ensure its success
5) Helps employees understand their role in supporting the strategy
6) Interconnects with a marketing strategy and clearly defines the desired client experience so employees know what it means to live it out
7) Holds everyone accountable for their contribution and results
8) Identifies strategic risks and opportunities
9) Ensures a sustained focus on strategy at all levels
10) Provides regular course correction opportunities
11) Integrates with every functional strategy in the organization so that they all align in support of corporate strategy (e.g. HR strategy is focused solely on building a culture, workforce, and competencies that support the client strategy)

Organizing the strategy in a way that fits your organization. How many layers deep should the accountability structure be, and how complex? (corporate/divisional/functional/team etc…) Who needs to be involved in each discussion, process or meeting?

• Navigating the corporate appetite for blowing up and rebuilding the strategic framework as required. Do you have sacred cows? BHAG, mission, values, strategy map, balanced scorecard

• The amount of education on strategy concepts you’ll need to do.

• How this overall program can be staged to fit the resources you have available.


This is what I recommend as your first moves:

• Achieve strong CEO and executive sponsorship for both the new processes and accountabilities, but also for the amount of change you’re going to push for
• Maintain a strong link and access to the CEO and the most senior leaders in the organization
• Start small, and at the top – keep things focused, and don’t implement a new component until the last one has critical mass
• Establish the base processes and that will help you organize and maintain accountability for the strategy and results
• Help others see this as an ongoing iterative process, not an event.
• Educate leaders constantly – most people don’t have a background in strategy, plan to teach people at every step in the process
• Don’t hoard knowledge, you succeed when the organization succeeds
• Always start building content from the top of the strategy framework – no decisions can be made until the contextual layer above it is clear

Tenacious Strategy Execution

Implementing big strategies and transformational change within your organization is exciting, but it’s usually not easy. There are short-term challenges that are difficult because they require hard conversations and decisions. And there are challenges that are difficult because they require a sustained focus over a long period of time. Sustaining focus is a unique kind of challenge, and requires tenacious leadership. Ensuring your strategy doesn’t become a flavor of the week helps to maintain your credibility as a leader.

So how relentless is your organization on strategy implementation and continuous improvement?
• Is your budget linked to strategy?
• How many hours a month do your executive spend talking about strategy?
• Do the senior leadership lead strategic initiatives or does it fall down to lower levels?
• Do executive sponsors guarantee the resources required to make strategies succeed?
• How many strategies have died for lack of focus?
• Does every employee understand the strategy, their role, and can they explain it?
• How many examples of successfully implemented strategies can employees reference?

What do you need to put in place to make sure your new big strategy doesn’t end up in mothballs prematurely?

Clarity: Exactly what is going to be accomplished, by whom, by when, what does success look like?
Accountability: Establish the expectations, and ensure that results or lack or results will be extremely visible
Leadership: All change requires leadership to succeed, ongoing leadership goes a long way
Culture: Culture trumps strategy every time
Data: Be accountable for quantifiable types of performance, not soft targets
Processes that drive sustained focus: Establish who should meet, how often, and tie compensation to results

Tenacity turns intentions into results.

Client strategy distortion

Your desired client experience is rooted in your corporate value discipline and branding / market positioning objectives. So how do you know how accurately it is being translated into real experiences by your clients? Quite simply: What is the alignment between how clients describe you through feedback mechanisms and how you describe your desired client experience? Do you know how much is being lost in translation?

So before we comment about my painfully strong grip on the obvious, I said all that to make this point: Distortion is almost always present to some degree, and yet we all know brands that build incredible client loyalty by actually bringing their desired client experience to life really consistently. Do you know what layers are causing the strategy to be skewed?

Distortion is created through layers:

• engagement
• how well they understand the strategy
• how well you position them to succeed
• cultural alignment to ideal based on your value discipline

Internal business processes
• overall efficiency
• internal client focus
• how that translates into external client focus

Financial management
• alignment between budget and strategy
• prioritization that drives innovation
• capacity for reinvention

The client/competitive strategy flows through all of these layers before it gets to your clients. The better organizational alignment, the cleaner the delivery of the strategy. You will only know if your strategy was brilliant when your organization can flow it through and turn it into real experiences.

McClelland’s Achievement Motivation Theory

David McClelland was a psychological theorist. I’m going to briefly describe his work on Achievement Motivation Theory. Similar to the boost that knowing how to read body language gives you, simply being aware of this theory (which has been indirectly validated by a thousand subsequent pieces of research) gives you a useful framework for interpreting the behaviour and motivations of co-workers, clients and even yourself.

Every individual is driven to varying extents by one of three motivators:
1) Achievement
2) Power
3) Affiliation

These motivators ALL exist to varying extents in each individual, and are socially acquired or learned. How people act is to a significant extent driven by the combination of these attributes, both based on individual and relative strengths. It’s interesting to note that most people aren’t consciously aware of what drives them, and yet the combination of these motivators that you hold significantly impacts how you work with others and the types of roles you’re likely to succeed in.

Achievement oriented people are driven to master complex challenges, to find solutions, overcome goals, and they love getting feedback on the level of success. Standards of excellence, precise goals and clear roles are what motivates these people. This results in a non-conscious concern for achieving excellence through individual effort. They usually set challenging goals for themselves, assume personal responsibility for accomplishment and take calculated risks for achieving these goals. They are very effective in leading task oriented groups and do well in entrepreneurial roles. Simply put, they love to achieve, and to measure that achievement.

Power oriented people want to control and influence, they have a need to win arguments, and love to persuade and prevail. This motivator is typically and not surprisingly strong in executives. In fact, when the power motivator exceeds that of achievement (which can be an individual focused trait), it is predictive of leadership effectiveness. The desire to influence results in a sustained focus on leadership. Howver, this motivator needs to be constrained to a level where self-promotion doesn’t have negative consequences for the organization. This motive is activated when the individual is allowed to have an impact, impress those in power or beat competitors.

Affiliation oriented people have a strong desire to belong. They have a deep concern for relationships, they strive to reduce uncertainty, and they love teamwork. They tend to be less assertive, submissive, and tend to be more dependent on others. In management positions, too great of a need for affiliation can surface in behaviours such as: avoidance for disciplining subordinates, favoritism, submissiveness, and reluctance to hold others accountable. These leaders are motivated by what they can accomplish with people they know and trust.

So think about what drives you.

What drives those around you?

Do you have a better idea of how to interact with other leaders now that you know this?

You’re not in control if you can’t steer

It’s an interesting question to ponder: Do you truly have the mechanisms in place to strategically manage your organization? Before you say yes, think about it through this lens:

Many organizations follow a path that is generally relevant from a historical perspective. There are cultural norms, processes, and a general sense of what is expected from employees. There isn’t a crystal clear sense of what “next level” behaviours look like, or a definition of how the customer experience will align to a pre-determined competitive strategy. Strangely enough, we DO know what this looks like for companies we don’t even work at … like WestJet. The process of cascading from the top right down to the individual employee isn’t really clear, but it seems to be working.

Now… If you had to change course suddenly, would you have the processes you’d need to suddenly change the behaviours of the entire organization in a short period of time… ranging from culture, customer experience, the words leaving the lips of leaders, contents of divisional-team-personal performance plans? If not, you’re not really in control.

I equate this to sitting behind the wheel of a runaway bus. One that happens to be going generally in the right direction. This may be fine for the short run, but you can’t steer if you need to. In the long-term, this will become a problem. The best time to fix that problem is before the obstacle presents itself.

Avoid the cliff tomorrow by learning how to steer today.

What does this look like in 5 years?

Accountability systems within organizations create snapshots of performance. The thing to remember as you decipher these views at all levels of the organization is that where something is leading is more important than where it is today. At a corporate level, when you consider the ideal level of performance within a given measure, the trend, what your next move is and what the leading indicators are telling you … the conversation becomes more valuable than whether you met your target for the prescribed period.

Build the right culture around your usage of measures: 1) Celebrate the discovery of gaps you previously didn’t know existed 2) Never be satisfied with yesterday’s accomplishments 3) Go beyond the surface in the interpretation of results 4) Think about the long-term trend rather than only the snapshot.