Monthly Archives: April, 2018

The (Mythical) Steps to Successful Strategy Execution

April 24th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy Execution 0 thoughts on “The (Mythical) Steps to Successful Strategy Execution”

As a Strategy Execution Management (SEM) software and consulting business, the very topic of strategy execution is naturally near and dear to our hearts.

The big question that always hangs in the mist is “How do I get better strategy execution results?”

An article at Entrepreneur entitled “4 Steps to Successful Execution of a Strategy” lists the following keys to success:

  1. Set clear priorities
  2. Collect and analyze data
  3. Keep a rhythm to meetings
  4. Evaluate a strategy

No question. These are smart things to do. In fact we would add a few more such as, but not limited to:

  1. Paint the picture – vision, mission, purpose, goals
  2. Remain flexible

But they aren’t linear steps

We often use the acronym ART (articulate, revise, track). Plan Canvas is based on the ART method defined in the book Business is ART. All of the above “steps” fit neatly into this method as follows:

A – Paint the picture, set clear priorities, keep a rhythm to meetings, evaluate the strategy

R – Remain flexible, evaluate the strategy, set clear priorities, keep a rhythm to meetings

T – Collect and analyze data, keep a rhythm to meetings

But when we say “steps” we imply linear action – one foot in front of the other. In reality, it just doesn’t work that way. Note that some of the items occur in more than one category. For example, “evaluate the strategy” is both in the “A” and the “R” category.

Business (and life) is like a chessboard in which even the pieces you haven’t purposefully moved are, none-the-less, constantly in motion. There is no linear approach to managing such a chessboard – which may be one reason strategy execution success rates are so low…

Too often we apply linear thinking to non-linear realities.

However, the answer is not to ignore linear thinking because that just adds chaos to the non-linear reality. Our suggestion is to use linear thinking as a guideline, but remain flexible enough to shift priorities and change direction as needed – completing each “step” as it make sense to do so.

There are a couple of keys to this

There are a couple of keys to making sure you can do this. First, you have to be able to see the whole chessboard, all of the moving pieces, all of the places they could move, all at once. This is one of the critical reasons for painting the picture. But simply painting it isn’t enough. It has to be constantly on display for stakeholders to see and for you, yourself, to constantly study and refer back to.

In our opinion, the most critical key is to have a company culture that understands the painted picture, is on board with it, and is open to change/flexibility.

An article at Inc. entitled “The Truth About Strategy Execution” provides an excellent example as follows:

“At Salesforce.com, for example, every employee, including managers and senior executives, is required to share his or her goals and the weekly progress toward them with the entire company. Everyone’s performance is out in the limelight, no one can hide. The company’s success is well known, and Salesforce also consistently ranks as one of the most desirable places to work. Employees feel that the company’s unique culture pushes them to deliver their best work. Operational excellence is a boon to employee satisfaction and happiness.”

We put it this way. There is no separation between employee engagement and strategy execution. Strategy must address employee engagement and without employee engagement, strategy execution is much more difficult if not impossible.

That’s why we say the “steps” are mythical

The steps included in this post are important and necessary. But they aren’t linear. Further, in and of themselves, the steps are not a guarantee of success. The true key is as stated above.

That’s why Plan Canvas is different from other tools available. With it you first paint the picture. But unlike classic planning tools, that’s just the beginning. Next and continuously thereafter, you manage the plan.

That plan goes well beyond sales and financials, additionally focusing on company cultural and employee engagement concerns such as the employees themselves, the clients/customers, corporate social responsibility, and operational excellence.

In other words, with Plan Canvas you focus on the entire chessboard, all of its moving pieces, all of the places they can move, all of the time.

Contact us to schedule a demonstration.

One of These Attitudes Will Get You Far

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Strategy Execution 0 thoughts on “One of These Attitudes Will Get You Far”

The majority of this post is an excerpt from our soon-to-be released white paper entitled “Strategy Execution Improvement Requires Institutional Change.”

Before getting to it, we would like to add an editorial note to say the title perhaps should be expanded to include, “And it requires individual change as well.”

During a recent demonstration of Plan Canvas, an entrepreneur commented that seeing a list of past due items in a dashboard and receiving an email indicating the item is coming due or is past due would “discourage the user” to the point of inactivity.

If that is really true, perhaps it is no wonder so many businesses and strategies fail.

The ironic thing about it is that the software isn’t telling you what to do…it’s reminding you of what you, yourself, said you’d do, or that you assigned someone else to do it. If you don’t need subtle reminders, you probably don’t need Plan Canvas (or any other tool).

But if you can’t keep it all straight in your head, or through round table discussions over coffee and diet soda, you just might benefit from Plan Canvas.

White paper excerpt

A vast majority of strategic initiatives fail. The obvious reason to be concerned with this is the resulting, tremendous, amount of waste – wasted time, money, effort, energy, and emotion.

The less obvious reason is the immeasurable lost opportunity, taking the form of missed potential to gain momentum, survive and thrive, versus the real potential for loss of market share and extinction of the business.

Saying that we need to do a better job of implementing successful strategies is comparable to saying we need to do a better job at diet and exercise. We know it is good for us, but find doing it difficult and unappealing.

For many of us, it is only after years of unhealthy eating and lack of exercise have negatively impacted our lives that we decide to make a change. At that point, “why” becomes, literally, painfully obvious. Unfortunately, it is often too late to reverse the impacts that could have been avoided in the first place.

The same is true of business and enterprise strategy. An institutional change is in order. Key to that is understanding and acknowledging why it is important, then acting on it before the negative impacts occur.

There are numerous reasons to focus on improving strategic outcomes, but all are a matter of momentum, surviving, and thriving.

Included herein are three critical business success factors, each representing an example of why improved strategy execution is essential:

  1. Cost Optimization
  2. Digitization, Digitalization and Digital Business Transformation
  3. Employee and Customer Engagement

Check your attitudes

The white paper goes on to explain these 3 examples in more detail, why they are each important, and how building them in to your culture or strategy is vital, before further discussing how to improve strategy outcomes.

For an advance copy of the white paper in its entirety, please contact us.

But whatever you do, consider this – there are 2 ways to look at it when viewing a list of things you have yet to accomplish:

  1. Be proud of what you’ve done so far and use that pride as motivation to keep tackling the list.
  2. Be discouraged by the list itself, fold tent and retreat.

One of these two attitudes will get you far. The other, not so much.

If Strategy Execution is a People Problem – Who ARE These People?

April 12th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy 0 thoughts on “If Strategy Execution is a People Problem – Who ARE These People?”

A lot of sources say that the problem with strategy execution is a people problem, not a strategy problem. In fact, an article at Harvard Business Review (HBR) is entitled exactly that.

There is a lot of truth to that sentiment, although, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, we believe that a good strategy considers employee engagement (people) and employee engagement is necessary for successful strategy execution. There is no one without the other.

So is execution really a people problem?

Well…could be…isn’t necessarily…lots of other things could go wrong…but could be. Let’s take the case where it is a people problem – then ask a question.

Who are we talking about when we say “people”?

Managers may be apt to say, “They are! Those people out there on the floor are the problem!”

Those on the floor may be apt to say, “They are! Those people over there in the corner offices are the problem!”

The truth is that it may be both, but it always starts at the top.

A recent request from a reporter

A reporter recently asked, “What are 3 things that are really needed for leading a team?” and we submitted the following as a response:

  1. Vision
  2. Purpose
  3. Plan

If permitted, we would have added a 4th – Determination to execute the plan – and a 5th – Flexibility to modify the plan.

Without any of these things, you can hire employees and be in charge, but you can’t lead (big difference) and you especially won’t be leading engaged employees. If you aren’t leading engaged employees, no amount of determination on your end will lead to successful strategy execution.

Why just count on dumb luck? Why not create luck (and outcomes)?

Did you know there is scientific research to suggest that we have an ability to create luck? Doing some of the things discussed in this post are key.

Formulating and communicating a Vision statement, for example. The Vision helps the leader paint the picture for the business or organization. The leader shouldn’t develop the Vision in a vacuum, but has to own it. With a clear Vision (and painted picture), all stakeholders, including employees, can more readily get on board. If they can see it, they can support it. If they can support it, you don’t have to go it alone. If you don’t go it alone, you are more likely to succeed. You create luck.

Having a sense of Purpose beyond the financial aspects of any business or organization is increasingly crucial as the workforce looks more and more to work for companies that can answer the question “Why are we here?” and help the employees answer their own question of “Why am I here?”

Purpose is the emotional hook that gets everyone excited and engaged. For example, our Mission is to provide tools and expertise to help business owners and leaders achieve greater levels of success, but our Purpose is to help people in general feel less overwhelmed and alone.

But you still need a plan. A Vision without a Plan is just daydreaming. A Purpose without a plan is just passion. Both are great for defining where you want to go and why you want to get there, but you need a Plan to serve as the roadmap for the journey.

That Plan cannot reside in the head of the leader. Again, when everyone knows the Plan, it’s easier for everyone to get on board. Duties are more readily delegated. Expectations are more effectively communicated. Everyone knows if what they are doing is moving the organization toward or away from the Vision. You create luck.

Any finally, a Plan without the Determination to execute to it results in chaos

How many times have you developed a plan, perhaps even started executing on it, but then quickly got distracted and just started responding to day-to-day activities rather than executing to any plan.

To really be effective, you have to plan to manage then manage the plan. Even if the plan changes dramatically on a frequent basic due to realities of the day, the act of planning and re-planning helps keep you focused.

That’s what we do

The Plan Canvas process is more than documenting the Vision and Purpose. It’s more than developing plans. It’s tracking results and outcomes, managing the plans, so that you can be more organized and focused, eliminating as much of the chaos as possible.

Contact us to schedule a demo of the software or discuss our consulting services.

I’m a Small Business – Stop Using Words Like “Strategy Execution”

April 6th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy 0 thoughts on “I’m a Small Business – Stop Using Words Like “Strategy Execution””

One of our missions at Plan Canvas is to take big company business practices and strip them down to their simplest forms so that small business, entrepreneurs, and freelancers can use them to their benefit as well.

Why? Primarily because our purpose is to help others succeed. But more pragmatically, things are just too complicated.

When things are too complex, we don’t do them. Sometimes we can’t. So, we ignore seemingly complex things, knowing that all of the nerdy data and research in the world advises against it.

We unnecessarily put ourselves at increased risk.

What is Strategy Execution?

This article at the American Management Association (AMA) entitled “What is Strategy Execution?” by Ed Barrows does a good job of defining it.

In simple terms, Strategy Execution is envisioning what you want to do, laying out a plan to do it, doing it, seeing if what you’ve done did what you wanted it to do, then keep doing it or change what you do based on what you learned from what you did so that the next thing you do is done better.

But that’ a mouthful!

Honestly, we can’t think of a better way to say “Strategy Execution”

The trickiest part of our purpose is not in simplifying processes, templates, and tools for use outside of the world of large enterprise. We have done that and continue to simplify as we evolve.

The tricky part is saying it in language that small businesses use. That we have not yet mastered. But we are working on it.

Still, sometimes, some terms just make a lot of sense for any sized business – like “Strategy Execution.”

Sure, when we say it, we run the risk of conjuring images of killing an otherwise perfectly good business strategy. But, what we hope to conjure are images of killing it with a strategic approach to business.

Is there any better way to say it?

Somehow, “Let’s kick some butt” just doesn’t seem to do it justice. So, for now, we will stick with “Strategy Execution” and hope that you adopt it as well.

Plan Canvas Can Help

Contact us to for a demo of Plan Canvas or to discuss how our services support your Strategy Execution needs

Plan Canvas is a community and a powerful software for improving your odds of business success and personal fulfillment.

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