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As recent article from Harvard Business Review by Graham Kenny reveals, countless companies fall into one or more of the following traps when executing business strategies: 1) letting too many people weigh in, 2) planning activity without concrete actions, and 3) not establishing means for remaining accountable for execution. And as Kenny suggests, these traps are common and easy to fall into—so easy, in fact, you may not even recognize them until further reflection. So, how can you both acknowledge these traps and therefore improve your business strategy?

It all starts with recognizing each of these traps and their root causes.

The Causes of Your Strategy Traps

1. A Lack of Collaborative Practices

First and foremost, the aforementioned HBR article suggests that many business strategies are thrown off course by having “too many cooks in the kitchen”—that is, having too many employees wanting to “have their say” and “be part of the scene.” And this, Kenny suggests, can lead to collaboration overload.

Of course, it’s impossible to please everyone, but perhaps more accurately, as Michael Hines for Built In NYC argues, the number of proverbial cooks in the proverbial kitchen is not itself the problem.

As Hines suggests, “Unless the kitchen is too small, the issue is not too many cooks—but rather the lack of specific assignments.” We at Workwolf even suggest that this collaboration overload often results when workers do not have adequate existing means for collaboration.

As such, whenever an opportunity does arise, all who are looking for a chance to share their ideas will feel they need to fight for a chance to voice their opinions.

2. All Ideas and No Plans

As Kenny suggests, this is a common issue that arises following team-bonding retreats or activities. The team feels motivated and ready to tackle their work collaboratively, but when they return to the office, their work itself once more overwhelms any motivation and enthusiasm.

This is especially common when there are large, seemingly unapproachable tasks for teams to take on with no direct point of entry or plan of attack.

3. A Lack of Accountability

Even if your organization does have actionable plans to enact the change you want to see, if you don’t have measures for remaining accountable, those actions may remain solely in the plan stage. What’s worse, as Kenny suggests, many managers in fact tend to focus not on what the company does accomplish, but what they do not.

And this can become a vicious cycle very quickly. Your team may feel discouraged because of the organization’s focus on failure and not on potential or lack of action rather than accomplishments, even on the micro level.

The Top Three Ways to Improve Your Business Strategy

1. Divide and Conquer to Collaborate

Resolving issues of collaboration overload, as Kenny suggests, can sometimes be as simple as being selective of the initiatives the organization takes on and only involving key stakeholders in decision-making processes. However, this still largely neglects the worker’s voice in decision-making. This can be a huge problem, especially if such decisions impact the worker and they had no say in the matter.

Instead, we suggest dividing and conquering the select initiatives and having these led by the key stakeholders, but still allowing for collaboration. Perhaps this involves having one worker as a representative for numerous members of a department so that all voices are at least represented if not heard individually.

As Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant note from “Collaboration Overload,” “Up to a third of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” Organizing more opportunities for compartmentalized collaboration, then, can then encourage employees add more valuable contributions collectively. 

2. Replace Activities with Action

As Kenny establishes, there is a difference between a vague goal, such as “training staff” and implementing a goal in order to train the staff. For example, one action for training staff might be quite simply establishing “a training program on the use of artificial intelligence on the business.” This, he notes, is specific and measurable in that a manager can place a deadline on it.

This kind of action is also something that another employee can take on and be held accountable for.

Specifically, the difference between activities and action is the behaviour that the activity includes. The activity is a description of a process, and the action itself is the means of achieving such a process in a measurable and approachable manner.

3. Add Measures for Accountability

Of course, adding measures for remaining accountable does not necessarily mean adding penalties for not meeting desired goals or completing an action.

As Galen Emanuele states, “Consistency and holding people to high standards isn’t about being punitive and policing bad behavior. It’s more about ‘Are we who we say we are?’ It’s rooted in commitment.”

And this doesn’t mean measuring success or failure on KPIs. Instead, Kenny suggests measuring progress in small check-ins with team members periodically throughout the day. This way, you can encourage an adoption of an “outcomes not activity” mindset. And this is beneficial both for supporting your employees throughout the workday and for encouraging action beyond baseline KPIs.

After all, accountability shouldn’t end once you hit your goals. Your accountability measures should encourage and motivate workers—including yourself!—to encourage growth beyond your initial goals. This, after all, is a moving target.

 

Do you have any advice for improving business strategies and their execution that we missed? We want to hear from you!

Feel free to share your insights with us via the LinkedIn post for this blog. And if you’d like to pitch us an idea for a chance to be featured here, reach out to [email protected] with your name and your blog post idea.

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