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4 Keys to Executing Strategy: Integrating Continuous Improvement with Strategic Goal Deployment

Executing strategic priorities is THE GREATEST challenge for business today.

It doesn’t matter if you are a nonprofit, for-profit, educational institution, healthcare organization, or government agency. Aligning your organization’s managers and work teams with your strategic priorities is a never-ending battle. The enormous effort needed to align and move your teams can zap your capacity and leave leaders and staff feeling frustrated.

How Strategy Execution Breaks Down

Organizations that struggle meeting their goals tend to experience 4 common management breakdowns:

1. Managers and work teams don’t know the goal. According to Franklin Covey, only 15% of employees typically know their organizations strategic goals. Either there are no goals, there are too many goals, or there is poor translation between strategic priority and the impact on frontline teams.

2. Managers and teams don’t know what to do to achieve the goal. If you don’t know the goal, you won’t know the plan. Additionally, too many teams don’t know which critical activities provide the greatest leverage to achieve team goals. Instead, they spend time and energy in meetings and activities that may not have the right impact.

3. They don’t keep score. When asked, most employees don’t know what they key measures are and they don’t track how they are performing to goal.

4. They are not held accountable. Research shows this to be one the greatest areas of inconsistency. Very few employees meet consistently as a team to discuss their progress to the strategic goal.

Why Strategy Execution Breaks Down

Managers and teams already have a mountain of work to do to run the day-to-day. The day-to-day work brings with it issues that are urgent in nature. These issues tend to act on you. Whether you like it or not you will get emails, calls, or texts with questions, concerns, and problems to solve. When we introduce strategic priorities, we are introducing new work. This new work is important in nature, but it requires we act on it to move things forward. You will need to schedule meetings, explain concepts and priorities, form committees, etc.

Courtesy: Franklin Covey

Execution breaks down because of the conflict between the enormous amount of effort required to maintain the day-to-day and the goals for moving the organization forward. While both forces are necessary, they are NOT the same and do NOT get along. They compete for time, energy, and attention.

The real challenge leaders have is not merely executing on a goal, it’s executing on a goal in the midst of the day-to-day!

There Is A Solution

It takes incredible discipline to execute a strategic goal in any organization. But it takes even more discipline to do so again and again. Creating a culture of focus and execution requires you have a system in place to anchor your leadership. We introduce the 4 Keys of Strategy Execution. The 4 Keys are a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing on your MOST important strategic priorities in the midst of the daily urgency.

1. Focus on the Breakthrough. Exceptional execution starts with narrowing the focus and expressing priorities as clear goals. What are the 1-3 most important goals your organization must achieve?

2. Leverage the Lead Measure. 20% of our activity produces 80% of our results (80/20 Rule). The highest predictor of goal achievement rests in your ability to identify the key 20% activities that will move the needle. Do your teams know what their 20% are? Can they clearly see how they connect to the strategic goal?

3. Track the Lead Measure. People and teams play differently when they are keeping score. Staff feel engaged when they can see they are having an impact on the game. How visible is your scoreboard to the entire team?

4. Commit to Accountability. Each team engages in a brief, simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures, and course-corrects as necessary. Do you rely on staff meetings or do you hold focused weekly accountability sessions?

When applied together, the 4 Keys integrate continuous improvement principles into your strategy execution, creating a simple and powerful performance management system. More than that, the ability to focus on the critical few, manage what’s in their control, visualize the score and consistently track performance creates the conditions for a culture change based on accountability and teamwork.

Want to learn more? Enroll in the online course and take a deeper dive into the 4 Keys. I'll also be sharing more posts in the coming weeks taking a closer look at each of the 4 Keys. Stay tuned!