During my years of consulting and working with thousands of managers in several countries, I have come across patterns of behavior that have been key to the success of organizations and others that have hindered progress. I have distilled these observations into a few quotes that capture the essence of our message to business leaders:
“Success starts with a clear vision.”
Clarity of the corporate vision is the fundamental prerequisite for any organization to achieve greatness. With clarity of vision comes clarity of understanding, which in turn produces the energy to move forward. Many of the problems organizations are facing can be solved if the vision is made clear for the workforce, if everyone becomes inspired by it and finds a part to play in turning it into reality.
“Better strategy or better strategy execution?”
CEOs are always looking for new strategies and they should be. But what they often fail to do is to pay attention to the execution of their last strategy. Did it fail because it was a bad strategy or because it wasn’t well executed?”
“If you’re leading and they are not following, you have a problem.”
There are leaders who really don’t care about what the other levels of their organization think or feel. They are in a leadership role because of their position, and expect those they manage to follow them. Some may follow because they have to, not because they want to. Others won’t. In either case it’s the leader’s problem.
“Being aligned with your boss and being aligned with company strategy is not the same thing.”
What if you boss is not aligned with the strategy of the organization? Aligning with him or her might please your boss, but is not the best for the organization you are serving.
“Strategy alignment comes before execution alignment.”
Being aligned to deliver excellent execution of a strategy is great. But, what if the strategy of the business unit you are serving is not aligned with the strategy at the company level? What if the business unit is out to grow as fast as it can, but the company strategy for the business unit is actually to grow only in certain niches? First the strategies must be aligned and then comes the execution of strategy.
“It is better to be aligned with strategy than aligned with vision.”
Imagine the situation where your company has a common vision and there are several ways to reach that vision. The strategy created at the top is by definition the best way. As a person working in this organization, would you try to be aligned with vision or strategy? To be aligned with vision implies that you can take any road you want toward vision. In other words, you invent your own strategy. To be aligned with strategy means you are supporting the strategy already selected. Which one is better? The first will dilute the resources necessary to make the company strategy successful. The second will combine resources for excellent execution.
“If you ignore good performance, it will go away.”
Most managers have the tendency to focus on what they can fix; to zero in on what is not working in order to set things right. Few pay attention to focusing on what is working and to recognize good performers. They fail to realize that when they ignore the good performers who are behind these successes, their performance will either eventually diminish, or they will move on and find employment elsewhere.
“It’s more important to be doing the right things than to be doing things right.”
The focus on quality that has been emphasized for a long time has the tendency to get people to do things with quality, to do them right. This is great. But, what if what you are doing is not the right thing, or not even necessary. It is always important to analyze actions within the framework of strategy and be sure that you are focusing on the ‘right thing’.
“Information is a means not an end in itself.”
As important as information is in helping us reach our goals, it is still only a means to an end. It is an essential tool – but is still a tool. Preoccupation or obsession with data without the narrative behind what the data represents and how it is used can cause us to lose our orientation and lose sight of the goal.