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Corporate strategy and New Year's resolutions - Making them foolproof

Published:Sunday | January 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Francis Wade, Sunday Business Columnist

It's the time of year in local companies when new promises are made and visions are shared. Unfortunately, it's also a time when the seeds of strategic failures are sown.  Your company's inability to follow through on its strategic plans will inevitably lead to feelings of regret and guilt if you don't put in place the right implementation skills.

Managers have an unfortunate tendency to equate individual productivity with the wrong things. We assume that if someone is smart and educated, they should be productive.

For the unproductive, we blame innate features such as the person's culture, level of discipline, motivation, and even race. Unfortunately, all these factors are useless to us in the main; they are things that can't be changed.

It's more useful for us to focus exclusively on behaviours which we can observe, coach, and train. For example, if your corporate strategy isn't being implemented fully by the manager of IT, it's more useful to look at the habits, practices, and rituals that are missing than to wonder why 'he doesn't seem to be so excited anymore'.

If you look for the right behaviours, you may notice that he's either not planning well enough, not being supported, or not putting actions before his feelings.

1. Not Planning Well Enough

Planning retreats are easy to conduct, but the month following is often very difficult. Executive teams who are so good at coming up with ideas fall short. Only a few have been trained to take the steps necessary to turn corporate plans into daily, personal activity.

It doesn't matter how inspiring the strategy is. The hard work to break projects down into individual steps, assigned to specific people simply doesn't happen. In months after, managing directors watch helplessly as their direct reports flounder, buried

by daily emergencies and ignoring the new strategic plan.

They assume that people are well-intended, and therefore competent.

My direct experience in regional boardrooms tells me that intentions aren't enough; they don't make up for calendars and to-do lists that are devoid of tasks and appointments derived from the retreat.

Learning these habits should not be a matter of luck. They need to be formally learned if they are to be evenly applied.

2. Not Being Supported

Many CEOs pride themselves in not
micromanaging people, assuming that essential productivity skills are,
indeed, present in the individual. They are often
wrong.

Often, their direct reports don't even know
what world-class time management practices look
like.

Sometimes, the CEO is at fault by not being a
great role model. At other times, a CEO offers no real support, leaving
people to sink or swim. This causes the corporate strategy to flounder
because no one can find the time to implement even the small
parts.

The fact is some top managers need to be
micromanaged until they learn to teach themselves the right skills.
CEO-as-coaches do not stay in this mode; they switch tactics when their
'coachees' start to find their
way.

3. Not Putting Actions Before
Feelings

A year ago, when I was writing my book, I
learned a valuable lesson: I didn't need to be inspired. In fact,
inspiration isn't enough to complete a full writing project that takes
tens, if not hundreds, of hours. Many people who are inspired write a
single chapter and then stop.

From a number of blogs, I
learned an important lesson: sitting down to write each day is like
showing up at work to do your job. Whether you feel inspired, excited,
or enthusiastic is interesting, but beside the
point.

This may sound harsh, but the same lesson
applies to the corporate strategy. Most of the actions, meetings, and
processes needed to implement even the grandest of strategies are
routine and repetitive.

At the start, they might
appear to be mundane and lifeless - devoid of
inspiration.

However, I have learned a thing or two
from writing my book and this column every two weeks: our initial
emotional forecasts are often wildly incorrect. Once we give our full
attention and start working on even the dullest of tasks, anything can
happen, including an entrance into what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls
the Flow State.

In those moments, time appears to fly,
as a sense of enjoyment and fulfilment is
generated.

Implementing a new strategy at the start of
the year is the same - it's a matter of showing up each day and
reliably taking small steps that eventually accumulate into a strategy
that puts your company ahead.

Francis Wade is
president of Framework Consulting and author of 'Bill's Im-Perfect Time
Management Adventure'.Email:
columns@fwconsulting.com.