The last letter in the word STRATEGY is a “why”
Karsten Bundgaard | Partner | Motivation Factor Institute | Copenhagen | Denmark
When you Google the words strategy + plan, you will get 88 million hits. Thousands of books, articles, and ready-to-use templates are available. Strategic planning is a very well documented and described process. For the last 20 years companies and organizations all over the world have realized the necessity of having a vision for the future, followed by goals, milestones and action plans.
“However, creating a strategy is hard. Creating the subsequent action plan is even harder. But getting people to do what it takes to leverage the strategy is definitely the most complicated task of all…”
And of course, we have to have a plan. We must find out where we are, decide where we should go and find the best way to get there. Otherwise, it can be difficult to know when we should turn left or right and if we are even on the right road or the wrong one. In general, companies are handling this process very professionally. However, creating a strategy is hard. Creating the subsequent action plan is even harder. But getting people to do what it takes to leverage the strategy is definitely the most complicated task of all.
We at Motivation Factor meet hundreds of CXO’s and managers every year at lectures, workshops, training sessions, etc., and we always ask them: What keeps you guys awake at night? What do you consider to be your biggest management challenge?. We write down the answers on a flip chart, and the biggest challenge in management is not the customers, the market, or the strategy itself. No! It is always about the challenges involved with getting others to do what it takes to leverage the strategy. And you will never see the return on investment in your strategy if you don’t succeed in getting people to do what it takes to leverage the strategy.
Why is strategic rooting so difficult?
Management is much more engaged and motivated than employees are. According to the newest research from Gallup, 70% of all managers are highly engaged while only 33 % of the employees in general find themselves engaged and motived in their jobs. We know why this is a problem.
“The management knows the plan – they have followed the process and progress and they know all intermediate results, and least but not last – they know their expected contribution to achieve the strategic goals..”
The management of the company spends large resources on strategic planning. Months spent in conference rooms behind closed doors, in a process, often facilitated by consultants and specialists, results in a plan for the future progress of the company – a five or a ten years plan, showing the way for new or continued success. The management knows the plan – they have followed the process and progress and they know all intermediate results, and least but not last – they know their expected contribution to achieve the strategic goals.
But when it’s time to implement plans the real challenges show up. When the CEO steps up on a box in the canteen Friday morning or up to a podium in a conference center just before lunch to present the new strategy for the employees, it’s based on a long, profound process that the employees haven’t been a part of. The vision, strategy, and objectives are often incomprehensible to middle or lower sections of the organization’s hierarchy because they haven’t been part of the process to see the evolution of the plans.
The employees do hear what the management has to say. They might even applaud after the presentation, but Monday morning when reality knocks on the door it dawns that nothing has changed. The telephone is still ringing and the tasks are piling up the same way they always did. After a while, most employees will forget about the visions and objectives. They might be mentioned at monthly information meetings, but a real change that embraces plans of management rarely occurs.
What went wrong?
Why is implementation and rooting of the strategy so difficult? Why do 95% of managers say the problem with change occurs during implementation? I believe three crucial issues are the cause:
1) The strategy presented as visions and objectives is associated with:
- Market position
- Revenue to owners/stockholders
No employee, who hasn’t taken part in the process, is going to be motivated by ensuring market shares increase to make the owners of the company richer. Employees are concerned about the issues that affect their own futures. Their thoughts circle around compensation, job security, “who will be my boss?”, bonuses, etc., not if consolidating the shareholder’s investment will win a 7% market share for stakeholders.
2) The employee hasn’t taken part in the process and doesn’t know the intermediate analysis
When you don’t know the intermediate analysis, it’s difficult to understand the result. Visions and objectives are often presented in meta language and one-liners, which only make sense if you’ve been part of the process.
3) The plans are presented at a generic, all-encompassing level, with detailed plans for the specific departments to be announced in the near future
When the employee can’t relate directly to the plan it creates insecurity and rumors. Daily life will soon be back again, and if nothing changes rapidly the employee will lose faith in the plans.
What to do?
Purpose and anchoring is the answer.
- Make sure the vision has a great perspective. “We will focus on – and involve – the employees, and together we will create the markets leading supplier” has far more power than ”We will ensure a growth of 10% before 2022.”
- Make sure the employee is able to see the purpose in the plan, so he or she can relate to it, feel proud of it
- Make sure that the needs and talents of the employee are anchored to the objective so that the employee can identify his or her own part in the work of reaching the vision.
- Make sure to focus telling the employees and everyone else WHY – rather than focusing on what, how much, when and how.
When the presentation has ended and the employees leave the room, the work to connect every employee’s energy, needs, talents and purpose to the objective begins. How can the talents and needs of Jane in customer service contribute to the company becoming a dominating supplier to the market five years from now? How can team manager Mike make use of his talents and involve his team, so that together they can proceed toward the overall vision? How can we celebrate the wins in relation to the vision, and make sure that both Jane and Mike feel they have contributed and are proud of the result?
Implementation is time consuming. Communication, dialogue and leadership is hard work, but it’s a fun kind of work, and those who do it right will in exchange experience more motivated, happy and productive employees who feel part of a community where everyone’s effort makes a difference.
Motivation Factor® enables you to identify what to pursue and what to avoid to stay highly motivated. Imagine if you knew exactly how to motivate yourself and/or your staff. Motivation Factor helps to verbalize your vision and provides you with the tools to work structured and professionally with your own and/or your employees’ motivation factors and contribution to the overall objectives.
Motivation and research
Recent brain research tells us that our motivation is rooted in our individual needs and talents. When it comes to personal change and the development processes, it is essential to focus on what drives you towards the goal, and it is equally important to know what to avoid in order to stay motivated. With this knowledge, you can maintain determination and focus along with motivation and willingness to adapt. Learn more about Motivation Factor tools and programs here.