Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin was recently ousted after less than six months on the job. An agent of change within the organization, his approach to overhauling the ailing media organization clearly didn’t mesh with what his organization was ready for. Griffin’s demise reminds me of the stellar job Louis Gerstner did when faced with a struggling IBM in the early 1990′s. One of the greatest examples of a change agent succeeding, Gerstner was responsible for changing the entire direction of an organization that until he took over was looking to break up its business into smaller units and dissolve others. Today, IBM is a singular technology services powerhouse thanks to Gerstner’s strategic vision and ability to guide the company through a massive change in culture.
While these examples may be among the biggest and most complicated decisions in business and technology, one theme is shared between them and the smaller strategic decisions we deal with in our organizations everyday: the need to achieve buy-in from stakeholders.
Without buy-in from stakeholders, no technology has ever been brought to market successfully, and no business has ever thrived. And so it strikes me as interesting that we tend to focus heavily on the strategy we intend to roll out, while its implementation tends to be an afterthought, with fewer resources thrown behind it. This is where more organizations need to focus. The majority of the most successful businesses already do.
Strategies should be built with consideration as to how they will be sold to the people they will affect most. Managers should ask themselves, “How do we communicate a sense of purpose and urgency?” Time after time we find ourselves sitting on great ideas having given little thought to their mobilization. What typically happens is that the strategy itself has to be diluted in order to implement. This is not a best-case scenario.
The thought is that the brainstorming process that results in strategy needs to also incorporate mobilization tactics. Organizations should include their opinion leaders, at all levels of the company, in the strategy process at an early stage. Then emphasize how the strategy will positively impact the organization, rewarding those who champion implementation through ownership of responsibilities. Often times the key to a successful implementation lies less in the complexity of the strategy itself but more in the process of its creation.
It’s not as easily achieved as it is envisioned, but still we often aim high and deliver below desired targets when executing strategy. I believe we can improve our batting average if we don’t approach strategy and implementation as separate entities. By integrating the two, we will have a much easier time realizing the results our strategies are meant to deliver, rather than settling for a less satisfying version of the original strategy. I believe it is the most powerful way today’s companies can bring about meaningful change.