Most strategies fail not because they contain the wrong content or aren’t well thought out, but because the people in the organization aren’t authentically committed to them succeeding. By taking the following steps, chief learning officers can facilitate the speedy creation of a bold and compelling strategy.
Step One: Tell the truth about the current levels of ownership, commitment and accountability within the organization. CLOs can contribute by exposing pockets of resignation, cynicism and skepticism that will undermine whatever brilliant strategy management develops. They can then work to dissolve these toxic dynamics by encouraging leaders to put real issues on the table — first with peers and then with their respective units — and help create a healthy, open environment where trust and partnership trump politics and infighting.
Step Two: Advocate that the top team members and key influencers get together to craft a clear, concise statement that articulates the state of the organization two to three years down the line. From that speculative, unencumbered place, begin to narrow down the vision to a simple, straightforward articulation that answers these three questions about the future:
- What kind of team are we?
- What do we provide and contribute that is unique and distinct?
- How do we provide what we provide — what qualities are we known for?
Spend as much time as necessary to ensure 100 percent alignment on this vision statement.
Step Three: Determine the specific and measurable methods that will be used to define success. These should be the three to five top-level metrics that will indicate that the organization has fulfilled its vision. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone, the company set the following goal for itself: It wanted 1 percent of the 1 billion cell phones sold globally within one year to be iPhones. Simplicity and clarity are key. Again, ensure total alignment among the members of the group who own the strategy.
Next, develop the few key initiatives you will undertake to achieve each of the promised results, and assign owners for delivering on each initiative. Monitor progress on these initiatives at each of the regular management meetings.
Step Four: Get everyone in the organization on board with the vision and success criteria. Make sure everyone understands where the company is headed, how it’s going to measure success and what each person’s role will be in fulfilling the future. For the strategy to succeed, each person in the organization needs to be able to strongly agree with the following statements:
- I understand where our organization is headed and how that will make us a better company.
- I understand how we will know when we succeed because we have clear indicators of success.
- I have complete confidence that our leaders are sincere in their commitment to the employees and to the strategy and that they will live up to both.
- I have complete confidence that our leaders have the courage to address the tough issues and the resolve to follow through.
- I have complete confidence that our leaders know how to achieve what we have set out to do and that they are able to accomplish it.
- I understand my group’s role in fulfilling our vision.
- I understand my role in fulfilling our group’s part of the company vision.
– Josh Leibner and Gershon Mader