Part 1: Crushing Mistakes Organizations Make
By Mark Morgan, CEO and Founder of StratEx Advisors, Inc.
Business plans or strategies usually sound fantastic at the outset. But far too often what sounded good at the beginning somehow just did not work out. In 35 years of business, I have my share of things that seemed like a slam dunk turn out to only be the slam without the points. Maybe it was a new branch of business or a new product line. Maybe it was the creation of new business processes or the installation of a new system. But somewhere along the way, it just did not happen. Here are six crushing mistakes organizations make and what your can do about them.
Don’t feel alone. About 90% of business strategies never make it to prime time. When it comes down to making things happen in organizations, it follows the old saying…
“When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done!”
This is very frustrating and expensive. Consider that it might cost a business 10-20% of annual revenue to significantly grow the business. For every million dollars of revenue, it could cost up to $200K to invest in the products, promotion, channel development and customer service aspects of your business to really make it take off. If the strategy does not work or it just simply doesn’t get implemented, that is a lot of cash down the drain!
Question: So what is it that organizations tend to miss here? There are 6 big mistakes that businesses make that crush their chances of success. Here they are:
- Forgetting to leverage the motivational part of the business. People will do for a cause what they will never do for money. That has always been true, but in the industrial age we could get away with treating the organization like a machine. Not now. We have entered the age of the purpose driven organization. Part of the problem with strategic execution is that people in organizations lack a clear line of sight between what they do and what is important about what they do. Every organization serves a purpose or it goes out of business. Businesses that are founded to accomplish great things are far more likely to execute their strategies because their people know how important it is that they do what they do. Strategies die of apathy and a lack of emotional commitment.
- Being unclear on the direction. A Harris poll once asked people in multiple organizations whether they understood the direction of the organizations they work in. 90% said No! This would be somewhat like a soccer team where only one person understands where the net is. What’s worse is that, because of reason number 1 above, not only do they not know which goal is theirs, they don’t even care! Not knowing what the direction and goals are is a strategy killer because there is not enough time to allow people to find their way to the goal line in the dark.
- Being fuzzy about identity. No business is all things to all people. Herb Kelleher once remarked that he hoped all the customers that did not like what Southwest Airlines offered would simply go use another airline instead of complaining about his. It was a way of saying that casting too big of a net is one of the fastest ways to fail. In the time that Southwest Airlines has been in business (and been profitable the whole time), over 100 airlines have failed. Knowing who the business is and who the business is not is critical to execution because it keeps the organization from pouring effort into too many things and succeeding at none of them. A diluted resource pool is a sure way to crush strategy because all the time the teams spend contending for resources lets the strategy slip into darkness.
- Meaningless measurement. Many organizations have dashboards full of metrics that measure seemingly everything that can be measured. One organization had over 100 metrics on the dashboard with no connection to what could be done about any of them. Some organizations measure things because they CAN, not that they SHOULD. Most of the measurements are about things that have happened in the past and have no predictive value. For instance, income and expense from last year are not predictive of the same things this year or next year. The big mistake here is measuring things that do not matter to a client or customer and focusing on things in the rear view mirror. There is a great reason that airplanes don’t have rear view mirrors: an airplane has no use for information about the air behind them.
- Faulty translation. One big gap in this area is that the strategic planning process does not link up with the operating plan process. What happens is that the strategic plan “offsite” does not generate action “on site”. Every strategy has to break down into component parts. The problem tends to be that when the strategy gets broken down into pieces, it is hard to tell what piece went with what strategy. The second big “swing and miss” comes from a lack of resource application in priority order of value. There are always more ideas about what we could do than resources to accomplish them. The translation process often does not finish the task of putting our commitment (money) where our strategy (mouth) is.
- Poor follow through. Like it or not, sexy or not, the ability to manage a project through to completion is how strategy gets delivered. Projects are the often messy and laborious part of pushing the ball across the goal line. And this is where it gets expensive. A strategy can be re-written in a short period of time at a relatively low cost but consider this: In the US, about 25% of the GDP is project related and about 30-40% of the projects will fail. That translates to a wasted effort of about 3-4 Trillion Dollars ($3,000,000,000,000 to $4,000,000,000,000). A $250 Million business might have $25 Million in projects. That means that between $7.5 Million and $10 Million is being wasted at this very minute. The part of the process where all the dreams and schemes were created was fun and exciting. The part where we take accountability for delivery sometimes is less fun but, according to the financials, this is a critical problem. Project, program and portfolio management get too little credit for the value they represent. This is where the rubber meets the road. It is also where many organizations run off the road.
Three fundamental things needed to get your strategy executed.