This is part one of a four-part series!
I want to share with you in a series of 4 brief articles, how to overcome the obstacles to effective and predictable business execution of strategic initiatives
There are chronic issues that exist in all organizations and far too many leaders accept them as a non-negotiable part of the business environment — things like resource disconnects, decision stalls, organizational politics, weak or passive-aggressive support, or everyone simply being too busy.
Stalls and retreats
We tend to accept stalls and loss of momentum as an inevitable result of short-term pressures that tempt the organization to go back to the old, comfortable way of working, instead of sticking with the new work necessary to make the longer-term transformation succeed.
Many organizations have a tendency to falter shortly after the exciting kick-off of a new strategic initiative. Think about how many times in your own career you have been told about a new strategy, and how many times the organization has actually followed through. (Not so much, right?)
So each time we hear about a new thing, our reaction is skepticism, and the opposite of personal engagement. “I don’t need to worry about this because we never follow through on these things anyway.”
We are all so jaded when hearing about big new strategies that our natural tendency is to dismiss them. As a leader, it’s important to remember that that is the natural tendency of your whole organization!
I’ve written a book (called MOVE) about changing the game to that organizations can actually implement the big, new strategies that they are so excited about in the beginning– and so that the all people in the organization can move the new strategy forward with more confidence and less suspicion — because the actually believe in it.
Over the past 25 years helping organizations execute transformations I’ve created my MOVE model for the successful implementation of any kind of strategic initiative.
Today I want to talk about the M part of my model which stands for “The Middle”.
Have you been in this meeting?
You’re at a strategic off-site meeting to clarify your new strategy. You talk about the key, long-term things your business must invent, optimize, fix, change, or create. You use the words “game changing” and “innovative” when you talk about these ideas. You may have hired expensive consultants to create your new innovative and game changing strategy. There is tremendous investment, effort, and energy that goes into the beginning of a new strategy. Reaching the point of having defined and aligned on a new strategy seems like a huge achievement in itself – and it is.
But then . . .
Everyone goes back to work.
Everyone stays busy on what they were already working on.
The new thing falls victim to the Middle.
The dangers of the Middle
The beginning is really clear and strong, with lots of investment, excitement and great intentions. And the end is really well defined. But the problem most strategies face is that there is no real plan for the Middle – which is where everything needs to happen!
It’s not the goal setting and strategy that is the problem. It’s the doing. And the doing is hard because it takes doing for a long time. Without the element of time, there is no real transformation.
It’s easy to get an organization focused on a sprint. But in a transformation, you need to keep a whole organization moving in an often unnatural direction for a long period of time. And since human nature is not really built to naturally keep people engaged and focused over a long period of time, to succeed you need to really focus on this ambiguous expanse in the Middle and do many things on purpose to keep people on point.
Some of the biggest problems in the middle:
Everyone is so busy on existing work to even think about doing or even planning new stuff. I often refer to this is “being too busy being a $200M company to be a $1B company”.
What exactly should I be doing?
Companies are good at articulating end goals, but less practiced at plotting a clear and concrete course through the Middle. So people are not sure exactly what is the different stuff that needs to be done – so it’s easier to just keep working on the important, current, urgent stuff.
“Are we still doing this?”
As time goes by, attention, commitment and confidence wane. People naturally revert to the old way, because the Middle is a long time. No one is sure if this new thing is still important. Original skepticism slips back in and forward momentum stalls.
Not enough resources
If you want to do new stuff, you need to resource it. Too often companies think resource shifts will happen automatically as a result of simply talking about how important the new stuff is. (This never happens.) So, people are left thinking, well, they haven’t actually assigned resources to the new stuff, so I’ll wait until that happens.
The MOVE model let’s you take control and plot a clear course through the Middle so that everyone can see the way forward (for the whole time). You eliminate resource disconnects, increase confidence, neutralize passive aggressive attacks, and overcome political conflicts by defining the Middle in such a clear and concrete way that you ensure forward momentum.
Get your copy of MOVE to help you define the Middle in a way that ensures everyone knows what to do, and they feel confident to do so.
And check back next time for the next part of the MOVE model, 0 = Organization.
You can find Patty Azzarello’s upcoming book here:
In my years of leading business transformations and turnarounds, building highly successful management teams, and working with countless clients to implement their strategies, I have determined what factors enable faster, more decisive execution, and reduce risk.
It’s all in the book! I can’t wait to share it! Available in February.
Get a copy for your whole team!
Or if you’d like to pre-order a copy for everyone on your team, contact us for bulk-order discounts.