I learned a powerful lesson about strategizing from my high school football coach (I'll call him GS) some 40 years ago.
GS taught us that a high-fallootin' and complex game strategy didn't mean a thing if it couldn't be executed (or wasn't executed correctly). He hammered away with us that even the simplest plans and plays stood a very good chance of success IF we would execute them flawlessly. He was a firm believer in the old axiom, "Keep it simple and don't outsmart yourself."
I can't even remember how many times since those high school football experiences I have seen complex and intricate strategies devised in organizations I've worked in/with. Lots of high-fiving at the grand plan, lots of impressive launches, lots of crowing about the sophistication of the strategy, press releases announcing, etc. ....................................................................................................then lots of flops.
Why? Some fizzled for one of the reasons shown below, some for multiple reasons:
- The need for the strategy was never communicated well to the team.
- The team was never included in the planning process.
- SPOTS - "strategic plan on top shelf" - The plan was well-conceived and developed, placed in a three-ring binder and stored on the top shelf in someone's office.
- Team members never had a clear view of their role in the deployment.
- The articulated outcomes seemed bogus and hollow, fabrications using suspect metrics (I see this in our school accountability system every day).
- Leaders of the organization never successfully "embedded" the plan into the daily fabric of the work. "If it's not that important to the bosses, why should it be important to me?"
I've come to believe the following with regard to continuous improvement (which is really why strategic plans are needed in the first place):
- Plan simply.
- Plan collectively (everyone gets input).
- Revisit and revise it constantly (embed it into the daily "talk" and the daily work).
- Speak often and clearly about the desired outcomes (implied accountability).
- EXECUTE! Flawlessly, persistently. At least a little, at least every day (somehow).
- The "boss" must live it, speak it, notice it, affirm it - with every breath.
Thanks Coach GS, for a worthy lesson (about life, and about work).