Turn Your Strategy into Action

As far as business transformation goes, I've been right in the thick of it for going on 20 years, seeing firsthand how turning bold strategies into real-world actions can be as tricky as it is crucial. It’s never a straightforward path—there are always nuanced challenges ready to trip us up and obstacles that hinder the implementation of meaningful change. So I want to get into these issues, shed some light on what I’ve seen and what stands in the way of executing strategies effectively and why it's so important that we tackle these barriers head-on.

30 May 2024

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Setting the Scene

One of the most significant barriers is the misalignment between the strategic vision set at the executive level and the actions taken on the ground. A disconnect that often arises from the challenge of communicating complex strategies at the right level, what we call ‘Altitude Setting’ as well as the cascading of strategic objectives into measurable, actionable tasks.

Research conducted by Haystack shows that 81% of UK business decision-makers are concerned about on-time project delivery, reflecting a widespread struggle to align day-to-day operations with strategic goals. This misalignment can lead to inefficiencies, wasted resources, and diminished morale as teams feel disconnected from the company's core objectives.

Then there’s the inherent resistance to change within organisations. Implementing a new strategy requires changes in processes, roles, and behaviours that can be uncomfortable for employees accustomed to established ways of working. Without a supportive culture that embraces change, these strategic initiatives can face significant pushback, slowing down or even halting progress. This is evident as 75% of engineers who reported inefficiencies experienced retaliation, highlighting a serious cultural barrier that can stall or even halt progress in implementing new strategies.

Another major challenge is data overload. With an abundance of data at their fingertips, leaders are finding themselves paralysed and unable to sift through the noise to find actionable insights. 72% of leaders admit their decision-making is hindered by the sheer volume of data and a lack of trust in its accuracy.

The fact of the matter is that the rapid pace of change in modern businesses demands agility that many organisations need to improve. Many are unable to keep up with increasingly dynamic market conditions, leading to outdated or irrelevant strategies, which is not the fault of the people in the process, it's the conditions of the environments we create based on our existing knowledge and capabilities.

Strategy-into-Action-2-industry-stats Industry snapshot | Haystack

Thinking Differently

Reflecting on these challenges, a clear pattern begins to emerge. The pattern uncovers opportunities to transition toward a more dynamic approach that not only keeps pace with market changes but also sets you ahead of the competition. Consider the impact of aligning every team member with clear, actionable objectives—this could significantly enhance your organisation's execution capabilities. Imagine if data wasn’t just abundant but also clear and actionable, enabling confident decision-making that moves your organisation forward.

These considerations are the first step toward transforming obstacles into opportunities for success. It's not just about surviving; it's about setting the pace and excelling in your industry. With this in mind, let's delve into how these insights can be translated into actionable strategies.

Bridging Gaps with Clarity and Focus

When there’s a disconnect between high-level strategy and daily tasks, it not only creates inefficiencies but also leaves team members feeling disconnected. This can frustrate employees who don’t see how their work fits into the company’s goals, leading to wasted efforts and diminished morale across the organisation. For example, how many front-line staff know what EBITDA means or how they can influence it?

The key to rectifying this begins with defining what success looks like at every level—from the executive suite to the front lines—ensuring that all efforts are pulling in the same direction.

To bring this to life, I advocate the use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). OKRs help by setting clear, overarching objectives that define what the company aims to achieve. Supported by measurable, quantifiable key results, organisations can then communicate their strategy, creating a roadmap of what success looks like across all levels:

At the Executive Level: Objectives establish the direction and prioritise resource allocation to support overarching goals.

For Middle Management: Managers translate strategic objectives into operational plans that their teams can execute, aligning departmental activities with broader goals.

On the Front Lines: Employees understand how their tasks tie into larger objectives, which enhances motivation and clarifies their impact on the organisation.

The renewed alignment provided by OKRs ensures that every effort is purpose-driven, guiding the organisation towards its strategic goals. Then by reviewing and analysing existing initiatives through the lens of these OKRs, you can make adjustments based on real-time feedback and market changes, keeping the organisation agile and responsive.

A Culture of Support and Innovation

Embracing new strategies can feel daunting—it disrupts established processes and demands shifts in roles and behaviours. And yes, change is uncomfortable, but it’s also the doorway to growth and efficiency. Remember that 75% of engineers faced pushback for pointing out inefficiencies? This isn’t just resistance, it’s a missed opportunity for improvement.

To effectively manage a transition from old ways to new, it’s essential to foster a culture that not only tolerates change but champions it. Here’s how you can think about setting this up:

Transparent Communication: Start with why. Clearly communicate the reasons behind changes and their expected benefits. When people understand the 'why,' the 'how' becomes much easier to tackle.

Empowerment Through Training: Provide the tools and training needed to help everyone adjust. Support doesn’t end with implementation; it’s about continuous improvement and adaptation.

Open Dialogue: Encourage a feedback-rich environment. When team members can speak openly about changes, you get valuable insights that can steer your strategy toward even greater success.

Reward Engagement: Recognise and reward those who lead and adapt to change. Highlighting these champions promotes a culture where change is not only accepted but embraced as a path to personal and organisational success.

If you start to incorporate these cultural changes into your business, you’ll be well on your way to creating an environment where your teams are empowered and equipped with the tools and processes they need to excel. This will enable the organisation to generate more value from its efforts and ensure that every action taken is a step towards achieving its strategic objectives.

Building Transparency and Insight through Data

With 72% of leaders confessing that the sheer volume of data and doubts about its accuracy hinder their ability to make decisions effectively, the real challenge isn't just collecting data—it's finding ways to make sense of it and utilise it.

When leaders find themselves drowning in data, it can paralyse decision-making and slow down processes to the point where the organisation simply isn’t able to keep up with the dynamism of its competitors or the pace of its industry.

To tackle this, the first step is focusing on creating transparency and delivering truly useful insights. Then by clarifying what data is most relevant, you can begin to filter out the excess and focus on what will genuinely drive strategic decisions forward.

Consider your business’ strategic objectives; the next step involves linking these objectives clearly with measurable results, which can be done through strategy mapping. This is foundational in developing effective OKRs at every level of the organisation.

Define Strategic Objectives: Begin with broad, long-term goals that mirror the organisation's vision, setting the stage for what you aim to achieve.

Break Down Into Key Results: For each objective, identify measurable key results that clearly define success and provide benchmarks for progress.

Cascade Throughout the Organisation: Adapt and extend these OKRs to every layer of the organisation, ensuring they're relevant and actionable at each level.

Align and Interconnect: Ensure OKRs across different levels are interconnected so that achieving lower-level results directly supports higher-level objectives.

Regular Review and Adaptation: Regularly review OKRs to assess progress and adapt them as necessary, allowing for flexibility and responsiveness to market changes.

Applying strategy mapping to set up and roll out OKRs means that businesses can zero in on the data that truly matters—ensuring every action and decision is in line with strategic goals. This is a game-changer for slicing through the clutter of data overload, helping you focus only on the most relevant, actionable data. This directly tackles the problem I see a lot of leaders having—feeling swamped by too much information and unsure of its reliability.

Clearly mapping out objectives and their corresponding key results creates a clear pathway for decision-making. Having this clarity not only makes it easier to trust the data you use but also speeds up response to market shifts, giving you a leg up on the competition.

Agility and Engagement for Sustained Success

Aligning strategic objectives with actionable tasks isn’t just about enhancing organisational efficiency; it’s about transforming how teams engage with their work. Implementing OKRs not only streamlines operations—but it also boosts employee engagement, autonomy, and a sense of ownership within their roles.

This isn’t just beneficial for workflow; it directly influences the vibrancy and productivity of the workplace, with studies showing that when employees see their goals aligned with those of the company, productivity can jump by 35%, and their sense of belonging can increase by up to five times.

With every team member clear on how their efforts contribute to the larger vision, you enhance your collective ability to respond to market changes swiftly and effectively. You’re not only improving performance and delivery but also fostering an environment where every employee feels integral to success and more connected to your mission.

This is how you turn challenges into opportunities for growth and leadership.

Learn more about how to turn your strategy into action here!

Mike Horwath

About the author

Mike Horwath

Mike is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of 1ovmany. He is also the Co-Author of The OKR Method a Strategy & OKR Expert and at times an Executive Business Transformation Coach.

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