Monday, May 17, 2021

”Lost-in-Translation”& Other Strategic Pitfalls

Business leaders should focus on the bigger picture, avoid pitfalls, rely on the skills and intelligence of the staff they lead so that they can manage a strong strategy.

There are many risks and pitfalls (hidden risks) for strategy execution, besides 'culture eating strategy for breakfast', there are more factors leading to the poor execution of strategy, such as: Strategy Creep -give lip service to the strategy, it can be indicative of larger planning issues such as poor due diligence in the planning phase, no alignment with vision or mission, lack of clear objectives, lack of clear goals, etc. 

There's a lack of resources to support strategy, “lost in translation” and many pitfalls on the way to successful strategy management.

Weak Leadership: There is a list of reasons why strategy implementations fail, but every reason points back to weak or ineffective leadership. Feeling weak as a leader confirms that we are human beings with emotion. If the leader can wake up from feeling weak, but be humble to learn, bring his/her skill and maturity to the next level which will make him/her a better leader. But if you let the weak feelings take over you, then you might take a long time to recover or you will never be out of it.

Being a true leader means never giving up on what you do best and just going out there to continue leading and motivating teams - the way you always do. Implementing new strategies is difficult and is often met with great resistance. Leaders must be willing to display the courage and determination required to continually push the initiative forward to achieve the desired goal. It is an opportunity to go through a process and come out stronger and successful by overcoming a hurdle or an obstacle.

Poor Prioritization: Nowadays there are so many things going on, with so many distractions or disruptions, the business has limited resources and they can’t chase all emerging opportunities. Prioritization brings transparency to the organization, creating internal competition among new ideas and projects. Prioritization forces people to be more creative, to come up with better ideas, because now they know that their ideas will be discussed at the board level, and if chosen, they will be followed closely. In addition, prioritization helps to focus the strategy of organization, which has huge benefits in terms of execution.

In reality, many organizations lack prioritization of strategic objectives; lack of detail planning to support plan goal achievement. This is important but so are other priorities. As a leader, you need to make effective decisions based on a set criteria for selecting things that truly matter to the strategic goals you set and the core business competencies the organizations demonstrate. For example: when you have to decide how to spend your time and staffing, attention and resources; what to communicate to the management team and troops, how your reward and what you recognize, etc.

Poor Communication and Coordination: The symptoms include: Lack clear employee understanding of the strategy and what it looks like in action at each individual employee's level. Or the absence of a clear strategy map. Letting the wrong pressures into the system such as "get that product out there yesterday" to beat the competition, to discover that you managed to do their work and beat yourself in the process. People have different knowledge bases and cognitive understanding to articulate things, communication has different content, context, and style. Thus, communication is complicated because there are differences in goals and contexts, and these contexts can shift. The biggest barrier has been to say not the way others wanted to listen.

Communication barriers are influenced by socio cultural traits. Communication gaps are often caused by cognitive difference, internal politics, ambiguous process, mistrust culture or other management bottlenecks, etc. So, respect your audience's cognitive diversity and try to send the message which appeals to them. You need to tailor what you say when you say it and how to the audience and objective. Once people see you as genuine, the freedom to communicate results in a far more effective system. Communication improves when team development is at its peak. Want more effective communication? Build stronger teams and make effective cross-functional communication. It would be better to understand what method or means or mode of communication will make the receiver comfortable.

Mistranslation of Strategy into Goals and Objectives: Once a strategy is formulated, it has to be translated into goals. A strategy is a general outline of loose action items that create departmental goals; goals are concrete items with a measurable factor and deadlines. In practice, there's a misinterpretation and disconnect between the corporate strategy and the sub-strategy of varying departments; there’s also misalignment between departmental goals and the staff’s daily tasks. - Or put simply: organizational misalignment/poor strategy cascading (to business units, departments, and individual goal plans). When you designed the strategy, you may not have understood that the execution was going to impact other areas of the business in ways you didn't anticipate. Even if you have a fair strategy, when mistranslating the good strategy into a set of goals and objectives, it further causes the failure to recognize and manage the devil in the details.

So continuous check-up is necessary as well: Are you running the risk to force the mental maps into the strategy making process and apply "rigidity" at a time when market dynamics require more flexibility? Strategic plans are about change and changes will challenge some employees' status quo, jobs, prestige, believe in your plan, communicate it widely, and stay engaged. Leaders who are just 'surviving' the planning process will struggle; who haven't been making as much progress as they'd like, always have the opportunity to look for new ways to do their strategic planning. Leaders who see the opportunity to shape the future of their organizations will jump in.

Lack of Governance Structure and Discipline:
The failure can often be linked with poor execution of strategy. You can have the greatest strategic plan in the world, but it will be worthless if the organizations are not accountable to anyone for execution of their tasks. In many lagging organizations, there is a lack of active involvement in strategy execution management and governance practices at the executive and organizational leader level.

Effective governance facilitates the successful functioning of an organization and ensures boundaries are appropriately set and adhered to and there are adequate controls in place to operate responsibly in accordance with its values. Corporate governance should have direct links to each business management discipline and its processes, to make sure that management is doing its job properly, but not overly rigid to stifle innovation. It’s the act of guiding, influencing and regulating the decisions and behaviors of the entire workforce, management included, to drive sustainable value-creation to the shareholders.

Lack of Meaningful Measurement: Failure to Measure. What gets measured gets done, especially when there is reward and recognition involved. Ensure you have something to measure. Understand time frames for when to expect to see a difference. The incomplete assessment of measurement variables would mislead the management making ineffective decisions or focus on short-term business results only. It’s important to select the right set of business indicators and leverage metrics that includes optimizing costs, improving system effectiveness & efficiency, providing continually expanding business services or solutions to substantiate ROIs.

It is very hard to measure performance objectively and meaningfully. Execution of a strategy takes much longer to show up in meaningful metrics than originally conceived. Have measurements to track (part of governance practice) and track performance, providing management and staff communication on progress, and recognition of milestones & misses and the people who are achieving the desired results. Measure! Reward. Recognize.

The digital organization is a complex and adaptive business system. Business leaders should focus on the bigger picture, avoid pitfalls, rely on the skills and intelligence of the staff they lead so that they can manage a strong strategy and apply holistic digital management discipline to build the competitive advantage for their businesses.


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