ENGAGEMENT - Where Effective Execution Begins
Updated: Jan 20
Published on October 28, 2016
On October 12th, I published an article entitled The Four E’s - Fundamentals for Successful Execution and Development,outlining a model that guides small to large organizations to execution excellence. The reality is, just identifying the components of successful execution is not enough. Most businesses have acronyms out the wazoo and we’ve all experienced the gamut, from KISS to SMART. Taking a deeper dive into the actions and behaviors that make each discipline of the model come to life is what helps companies turn concept into experience. ENGAGEMENT is the first quadrant of the Four E’s model and is what I will focus on in this, the next installment. The following three articles will focus on Education, Empowerment and Execution.
Several years ago, I consulted with the principle of a professional salon products company who was beyond frustrated with the company staff, distributors and, truth be known, customers. He just couldn’t understand how a company with so much to offer failed to be the first thing on the minds of everyone the business touched. Sensing the frustration, I agreed to dig deeper with organizational mapping and process assessments and found the leader had a bad case of the “King and I Syndrome”. In the classic musical and Broadway hit, the king would say “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Wow, to have such power would be amazing! From my words to execution! No, not just execution, actually from words directly to achievement! Well, I’ve got bad news for all you king-style leaders out there; You’re just not that powerful and that really only happens in movies. This leader, while truly a brilliant business person, missed literally every opportunity to gather intelligence and involve those around him. There was little to no input from those who were charged with actioning his strategies, including staff, distributors, and most surprisingly, the customer. After a few weeks, I learned the entire go-to-market plan was constructed in his personal silo from a financially driven position. Furthermore, the entire initiative was based on a personal interest theme that, in the end, didn’t resonate with the customer. This isn’t to say that leaders shouldn’t lead, granted that’s why they get the big bucks, but how could this have been different?
To start, whether it’s an underserved market you want to capture, a new product introduction or opening a totally new channel where you need to assemble a blue-sky think tank, a critical first step is to IDENTIFY CONTRIBUTORS. This group is made up of anyone who plays a role in the successful planning and execution of a strategy. In larger organizations, not every level within each department is critical as long as the leadership, with profound knowledge about their group, participates. For example, a new program that presents a buyer with a significant financial investment might best involve the head of finance to provide options for terms or payment plans. A new product introduction going through a wholesale channel would be better served with a distributor having a voice in the process. The team responsible for presenting to customers could certainly build a stronger story by seeing the marketing information. Even having end-users in this group ensures hitting the mark on the back end.
Once the contributors are identified, bringing them together to BUILD BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE is the next piece. What data is needed, what research is to be done, what collaborative efforts between departments is critical, what tracking will be done, what is the cost, how will it be paid for, what is the ROI, what training is required, etc. The best source of historical data that can guide future direction comes from previous execution, hence why “engagement without execution” is a formula for failure. If all the data that supports a strategy is speculative, it’s intrinsically at high risk. This is likely conjuring up ideas of a room full of people representing their best interest. Exactly! The difference is that in today’s tech-forward world, teleconferences and web-based meetings are common and while the room might be virtual, the dialog and resulting information is the fuel of strategy! It’s a robust exploration of the means to the opportunity. Here is where a SWOT analysis might live, but how many times have we seen that completed without the participation of a critical party or two? Debate and conflict are welcome behaviors in this stage so that they are eliminated later in the execution phase. How many re-boots do we see in today’s business world because one component was missed? Recently, cell phone fires comes to mind. It’s important to identify follow up responsibilities during these interactions and establish a future unpacking point. Work groups or committees that form outside the formal meeting schedule is a positive sign of a collaborative culture. The third and last component to establishing engagement is simply bringing together the first two steps to INFUSE OWNERSHIP. An easy method to make this reality is for each contributor to bring the information they were responsible to deliver and unpack it with the group so final strategies can be crafted. This is when and where KPIs, lead and lag measures, preparation and tactics are identified. While studying Hoshin Kanri, that has many common threads with the engagement and execution stages of the Four E’s, I found that ownership and responsibility is most times a natural byproduct if the aforementioned steps are consistent in the strategic process. It also depends on whether the leadership structure is willing and confident enough to adjust when data moves the process in an alternate direction. Sticking to the plan is only sound when supported by good intelligence.
As with the executive above, had he taken these steps to engage all the resources around him, the outcome would have been dramatically different. At inception, involving his leadership team, the field staff, a key distributor and ultimately a key customer would have taken his company in a new direction sooner, as it ultimately did after he shifted directions and created a culture of collaboration with strong accountability to execution. Engagement is a necessary and vital component to effectively getting the buy-in and commitment of those responsible for contributing to the successful execution of any plan.