Consultants and managers like to talk about grand strategies to win in business. They spend time and money to meet together to craft the best possible expressions of the purpose of the business, the vision for the future and the major steps along the way toward that future. They gather in retreats to make advancements.
Meanwhile, in the rest of organization, people come and go to work each day. They often know little of what has been decided. Or, if they have received the pronouncements from on high, they selectively integrate what they consider important into their work plans.
So, how can you tell that the business strategy is working?
There are usual external measures of revenue, profit, market share and so on that are typically used to measure the effectiveness of strategy. These are critical measures, of course, but they are lagging indicators when a new strategy is introduced. Often the first measures of strategy effectiveness come from the internal organization.
What should a manager look for to understand if the strategy is working within the organization? Here are my five success indicators to monitor.
1. Managers are modeling the changes. At all levels, a new strategy implies change (otherwise it isn’t new). If management expects change to occur only because of announcements, then the strategy is unlikely to be effective. People are sensitive to strategy fads which come and go. However, they are similarly alert to real change in people.
2. Success measures are being understood. It is not enough to have a bright idea. At some point in time, the performance of the strategy must be measured and the measurement must be understood (and accepted) in the organization. People that understand the external measures begin to adapt the internal reward system accordingly.
3. Competing strategies are retired. The temptation for management and organizations is to retain the familiar. If a significant new strategy is introduced, a significant old strategy must be retired. Not only does this make sense to the larger organization (sensible behavior is important), it establishes the credibility of leaders to focus the organization.
4. Increasing focus on the future. A temperature reading of the organization will reveal that people are talking more about the future than the past. It should be no surprise that a backward focus is a drain on the organization’s energy. Befuddled leadership, ineffective strategies and risk aversion prevent an organization from solving tomorrow’s problems. A strategy starts to work when an organization is energized about what is possible to achieve.
5. It is becoming personal. The best leaders create bridges between their organization and the vision. People then make conscious decisions to move toward or away from the vision. A strategy’s effectiveness can be measured by the extent to which employees own it. Increasing ownership means increasing alignment with the vision, greater problem solving and broader participation. Simply put, people commit themselves by crossing the bridges.