Most organizations strive to be the best they can be, delivering the highest results for their stakeholders. Statistics show that most under achieve against goals. Companies either under realize the forecasted potential documented in their strategic plan (most achieve only 2/3 of the potential inherent in their strategy) or they don’t realize the intended return on a specific initiative–in fact, only one in four generates value. How could that be?
The truth is, every organization is perfectly designed to achieve the results it gets. In other words, under performance is usually attributed to the business model we use, and can be accounted for by one or more of these things:
- Defining the relevant marketplace. Most of us would say Blockbuster underachieved their goals. They went bankrupt. They failed to stay in touch with the changing needs of the marketplace as new business models and technologies emerged, making it easier and cheaper to rent movies. A great performing organization is continually in touch with the marketplace, and rather than following the “if we build it they will come” philosophy, asking “what problem can we help them solve?” Know your target customer and how their needs are changing, and what other business models may be in your blind spot, because they are coming from outside your core industry or are still too small to matter (you think).
- Crafting a purposeful culture. This may be the element that most companies spend the least time on and yet has the most power to impact results. People live up to your expectations. If they are a cog in a wheel, they will underachieve. If they know you are counting on them to be a creative contributor they are more likely to be. A purposeful culture means defining specific values you endorse and role model, clarifying the expected behavior and not tolerating anti-culture behavior from any employee, even your brother-in-law, and integrating those values into your hiring, on-boarding, recognition, and reward policies.
- Have a clear strategic focus. Most companies either don’t have one or it is a well kept secret. Many confuse budgeting or a list of objectives with strategy. A clear strategy is an integrating, externally oriented vision that keeps everyone on the same page, working on the right things, the right way. Apple’s is cool technology, Walgreens is convenience. Strategies are long lived and therefore can even be implemented in waves to allow load leveling of resources. It doesn’t mean you know what new cool technology you will invent in three years–it just means you know you will run the organization in a manner that you know you will.
- The first three put the decisions in place–strategic execution is where you implement them. A great leader makes it clear who their target is, what their culture expects and what vision is driving them. They also have the ability to inspire, motivate, track and oversee projects necessary to achieve results while holding specific people accountable.
All four of these leadership areas need to be in place and working harmoniously for us to successfully achieve results. If not, underachievement is fairly predictable, regardless of the state of the economy. If you want to be a high performance company, become a strategic leader.