The pace of change continues to accelerate, but most organizations are using the same processes and tools to implement their strategic plans year after year. Too often, the why behind these changes gets lost in translation. Important context for how strategy translates into day to day behaviors for teams and individuals is often overlooked.
A change in strategy should result in a change to how the entire organization thinks and behaves. And yet most organizations measure downstream lagging indicators—things like quarterly financials and annual performance reviews. Through those vehicles, by the time they discover that the strategic plan isn’t being fully embedded or adopted, it may be too late to actually realize the change they want to see.
If you can change how an organization thinks, and what they measure, you can actually have a totally different outcome.
Strategic plans are usually driven by a combination of mission, vision, values, SWOT analysis, market/competitor analysis, etc. The strategic plan typically gets built out by the senior executives, and then almost immediately, that strategic plan gets turned into an operational plan, where the senior leadership identifies targets and KPIs, a resource plan, department goals, etc.
The challenge of course, is that it’s a game of broken telephone—top executives share it in a certain way, the next layer down tweaks it a bit (whether they mean to or not), and so on down the ranks, until it gets to the front line staff, and very little of the original message is actually maintained.
What organizations are typically really good at doing is communicating and implementing the operational plan. They do this through budget planning, HR planning, department/team meetings, one-on-ones, etc., to get clear on what everyone is going to achieve over the course of the year ahead, and then measure and manage performance according to those plans. Organizations are typically strong at KPI measurement, revenue and market share, budgeting, performance reviews—looking at the lagging indicators of what is actually happening related to the strategic plan that was set initially.
The gap is in the measurement and analysis/insight of the strategic plan in its pure sense. The insights and analysis performed around the operational plan are lagging indicators—backwards looking, and usually only available 12 months or more after the strategic plan has been put into place.
Between the broken telephone that interprets and dilutes the strategic plan as it is communicated through the organization, and the focus on tracking lagging indicators, it’s no wonder that McKinsey and others report that up to 70% of change initiatives fail.
There has to be a better way.
Your clients are likely working on their strategic plans for 2018 right now, getting ready to kick off the new year with a clear vision and direction. And they’ll be looking to you as a trusted advisor to help them navigate their change plans.
The way we look at it, the strategic plan, in addition to being operationalized, has 2 key components—2 things that need to change inside the organization.
- New ideas/new content needs to be shared within the organization.
- New behaviors and capabilities that help an organization move towards their ideal outcome from that strategic plan need to be communicated as well.
For meaningful behavior change to occur throughout the organization, employees need to have the motivation and ability to perform target behaviors. They need to understand the relevance of the strategic plan, and the associated behavior changes, to them personally—in their daily work activities and teams.
A platform like Actionable Conversations can provide your clients with real time data on individual and team behavior change, aligned to the client’s strategic plan, and made meaningful to the individual employees’ unique context in their organization. If you know where you need to focus time and attention to drive adoption, and where you can conserve your valuable resources, you can help course correct along the way, and strengthen your role as a trusted advisor to your clients.
The idea here is to drive managerial accountability for strategic change, and to leverage the network in the organization to exponentially increase the impact of the strategic plan. You can measure engagement and success of strategy implementation and embeddedness, again in real time.
No more lagging indicators or broken telephone. Just the individual behavior change that your client organizations need to execute their strategic plans, and real-time visibility into the bright spots and pockets of resistance. The ability to track progress towards the strategic objectives, and course correct in the moment, leads to real results.