Shouldn’t there be only one way to make sure your strategy deployment process doesn’t collapse?

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet, no “one thing” which will ensure that your strategy deployment is a success. What’s worth having is worth working for, and that means there is no easy button. In fact, there are five working “keys” to achieve reliable sustainability:

  • Clarity of purpose – Having a well-understood system aim, and cascading balanced scorecard
  • Mutual respect – Developing a culture of productive collaboration between management and employees
  • Vertical integration and cross-functional alignment – Ensuring that no role is left out of the process
  • Simultaneous and parallel cascading functions: Both Operations and Planning.
  • Active use of the effective communication flywheel (ECF) – The ECF provides the infrastructure to harness the power of the organization’s purpose to, build associate trust, and consistently delivering remarkable results thereby achieving customer loyalty.

Clarity of Purpose

First, the organization must have clarity of purpose, what Dr. Deming refers to as the “aim of the system”.

This “aim” or “hoshin” is the compass which points everyone in the organization in the right direction. It is often referred to as an organization’s’ why.

It answers the question “why do we exist; for what purpose?”

When paired with the second level of clarity, the business fundamental strategies and key process measures, it defines how the organization knows it has won.

Mutual Respect

Second, mutual respect must be developed between leaders and workers as the currency for reliable and sustainable performance.

In a case study titled “How to Change a Culture”, (published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, January 2010), author John Shook writes about the transformation of an inefficient General Motors factory that became a highly successful Toyota/GM factory.

The workers weren’t fired – only the management changed. And sure enough, the same UAW workers that had been the worst for GM became the best workers under the culture of mutual respect developed within the application of the Toyota Production System at NUMMI.

In fact, according to John Shook, who participated in the NUMMI experiment, the union and workers didn’t just accept Toyota’s system, they embraced it with passion.

The absenteeism that had regularly reached 20% or more, fell to a steady 2%. The quality that had been GM’s worst in just one year became GM’s best. And all with the exact same workers, including the old troublemakers.

The only thing that changed was implementing the Toyota production system and creating a culture of collaboration and mutual respect.

Vertical Integration and Cross-Functional Alignment

Third, effective Strategy Deployment involves both vertical integration and cross-functional alignment, or horizontal integration.

No role is left out of the process. From executives to frontline associates, everyone is involved.

Silos are overcome in the most effective way within the Strategy Deployment process. Departments that used to be pockets of knowledge and control, now become active participants in an enterprise-wide customer first, zero defect journey. The departments or units each have their specific performance measures for which they are responsible.

Kaizen, a core technique of Strategy Deployment, leverages this interactive process to provide continuous process improvement. Managers are taught to observe carefully to see the facts of a situation, and make maximum use of everyone’s brainpower to devise simple, ingenious solutions to problems.

Roger Martin, Harvard Professor, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, and author of Playing to Win, states quite simply that: “A strategy that fails to produce a great outcome is simply a failure”.

If that is correct, then what is typically missing?

The answer? The detailed knowledge of what will make the plan a success or a failure.

Dr. Martin describes the role of the “choiceless-doer” in many organizations which represents the worker tasked with executing on a plan that they either don’t understand, don’t agree with, or both.

Instead what an organization needs most is learning from the frontline worker and the process in order to understand what is really happening so that Strategy Deployment can be effectively executed.

Executives often do not get this critical information because a model of management has been promulgated in which employees are convinced that no one is interested in what they have to say.

Simultaneous and Parallel Cascading Functions

Fourth, reliable and sustainable Strategy Deployment must have both simultaneous and parallel cascading functions:

  1. Operations
  2. Planning

The Operations function is responsible for execution of the plan. Execution involves all departments, units or functional groups, teams, and individuals in simultaneous alignment and effort to fulfill the system aim, goals, and initiatives.

Each operational area has objectives and initiatives unique to them, which, when combined together, create an orchestra of customer first, zero defect performance essential for the organization to win.

The operational teams participate in daily huddles and consistent operational rounding to assess where they stand on performance to goals. These help to:

  • Stabilize – Ensuring that the four M’s (manpower, methods, machines, and materials) are adequate and functioning effectively.
  • Flow – Eliminating bottlenecks, unnecessary delays, or workarounds in the process; so that production progresses smoothly from one functional area to the next.
  • Pull – Creating just-in-time demand fulfillment so that upstream actions consistently fulfill downstream production requirements.
  • Improve the system (seek perfection) – Continuously evaluate performance against target measures, conducting rapid cycle improvements to ensure that goals are consistently achieved.

The Planning function mirrors the finance cycle. Similar to the annual financial plan with periodic checks to make sure the organization is on track, the planning cycle of the Strategy deployment process has monthly (micro) reviews, and mid-year and year-end (macro) reviews to make sure the strategy deployment plan is always on track.

The check-and-adjust process is based upon interactive or “catch ball” feedback between the planning function and the operations function. The goal is to make problems visible and to be able to suggest appropriate countermeasures as needed.

Operational countermeasures are then implemented as required to ensure strategic plan success. In each step of the planning process then, the goal is to make problems visible and to be able to suggest appropriate countermeasures as needed.

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Effective Communication Flywheel

The Effective Communication Flywheel (ECF) provides the infrastructure to harness the power of the organization’s purpose to consistently deliver remarkable results and build customer loyalty.

1. Honest, Robust Dialogue and Learning

The starting position on the ECF is honest, robust dialogue and learning to achieve alignment.

Having the team engage in dialogue encourages an open exchange of ideas and information, regardless of position.

2. Achieving Commitment

The second step on the ECF is achieving commitment. This is not just consensus or agreement. The difference between consensus, agreement, and commitment is that that in spite of likely disagreements on the best way to proceed, the leader who is facilitating the conversation, after all ideas have been heard and vetted, calls the question and asks for team commitment to move forward with the final recommended approach.

Everyone has a had a voice in the discussion and expressed their opinion; however the improvement leader puts forward the best solution for team commitment.

This is not a watered down consensus or an ‘agree-to- disagree’ outcome. It is commitment.

The result is immediate ownership by all team members for mutual accountability.

3. Accountability

The third position on the ECF is accountability. This step clarifies who is accountable for what actions in order to fulfill the team commitment.

Specified action items should be SMART objectives (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Trackable).

4. Results

The fourth position on the ECF, results, comes about as a natural outcome from the disciplined communication and action setting process described in steps 1 to 3.

If some detail is missed the process simply restarts with step 1, honest and robust dialog, and repeats the process.

That is why it is referred to as a flywheel. The process is cyclical in nature, and develops cultural momentum the more it is used.

5. Trust and loyalty

The final, or fifth, position on the ECF is trust and loyalty, both of which are continually developed as organizations start with why, commit to change, and then consistently achieve results.

Associates begin to trust leadership and each other when they see that everyone is rowing in the same direction. Customers experience reliable On-Time, Complete, andCorrect (OTCC) service performance, and their loyalty to the company and its brand flourishes.

If an organization implements these, then it can’t help but overcome any difficulties it faces.

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