All Posts by Amanda Ferenczy

About the Author

Mission Statements are Key to the Corporate Strategy Process

Mission Statements Key To Corporate Strategy Process

By Amanda Ferenczy

Mission Statements Key to Corporate Strategy Process

It’s time that mission statements and vision statements get their just rewards; although often overlooked, they’re key to the corporate strategy process. They play a critical role – or should play a critical role – as bookends for every strategic and operational plan. In short, think of the mission statement as the starting point and the vision as the destination. Without mission statements and vision statements, plans can and will wander around aimlessly, travelling to a lot of exotic locales, but never actually getting to where they need to be.

In this post we tackle the mission statement as a critical component of your corporate strategy process.

Continue reading

Top 5 Articles to Kick Start Your Strategy Execution in 2017

Top 4 Articles to Kick Start Your Strategy Execution in 2017

By Amanda Ferenczy

Top 4 Articles to Kick Start Your Strategy Execution in 2017

The last few months have been filled with meetings and sessions focused on building out your strategic plan for 2017. Hopefully by this point, your plan is written, and it’s time to execute. But unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. Strategy execution is really where the rubber meets the road, and your organization, as a whole, is put to the test. To help combat some of the common strategy execution struggles, we compiled a list of the top 4 articles you should read to kick start your 2017 strategy execution.

1. Execution is a People Problem, Not a Strategy Problem

This article says it perfectly, “While strategy development and communication are about knowing something, strategy execution is about doing something.” Building a strong, executable plan is anything but easy. But getting the people in your organization to execute on that strategy is ten times harder.

Strategy execution requires strategic action

And no matter how great a strategy might be, it’s worthless without proper execution. To bring in the results you’re looking for, the most important strategy question you should be asking yourself is…
Click here to read the full article.

2. 7 Signs of Poor Strategy Execution

New studies suggest only 13% of companies effectively execute on their strategies. Clearly, there’s a disconnect between the plan outlined by leadership and the on-the-ground strategy execution by employees on the front-line. This disconnect can have a profound effect on organizational success, as failure to realize strategy often means…
Click here to read the full article.

3. How Strategy Can Fuel Or Frustrate Your Big Data Initiatives

We can all agree that tying measurable analytics to your strategic initiatives can be extremely beneficial in determining the success of your strategy execution efforts.

Communicating your plan is key to successful strategy execution

But where things get sticky is in determining what you should be measuring. Why? So many organizations fail to properly define and clearly articulate what exactly their core business strategies are…
Click here to read the full article.

4. 5 Ways You Can Increase the Success of Your Strategic Management Plan

If your strategic plan is the roadmap, then the strategic management plan is the vehicle you take to navigate that map. You cannot have one without the other, yet 70-90% of plans fail due to lack of execution. Here are five takeaways that can help you improve your strategic management plan’s chances of success…
Click here to read the full article.

On your mark, get set, execute

Ready. Set. Execute.

If you want to drive strategy execution to new heights, you need technology that will provide you with the tools, resources and automation required to keep your highest achievers on track.

The AchieveIt Execution Insight Platform is the ideal solution. It gives you a bird’s eye view of your plan and its status in real-time. Not only does it keep people accountable by letting you assign every task to the individual in charge and then requiring updates at the frequency you desire, but it quickly compiles the metrics you are tracking and uses dashboard technology to show you exactly where you are on your path of strategy execution.

To find out more, request a demo.

Strategy Execution

Boys in the Boat: 10 Lessons on Strategy Execution, Teamwork

By Amanda Ferenczy

Boys in the Boat: 10 Lessons on Strategy Execution, Teamwork

Rowing is recognized as the quintessential team sport. How do I know? From seeing motivational posters with rowing photos and headlines like “TEAMWORK!” in offices nationwide to inspire employees to “pull together” to achieve operational and management excellence, and successful strategy execution! (Oh, and also I rowed four years in college.) But it’s the poster thing that, as a rower, I always found funny since most people in America know very little about rowing, or “crew.” Yet still, somehow rowing became the universal symbol of working hard to achieve a collaborative goal. Which is sort of like people across America adopting images of competitive baking to symbolize grace under pressure.

Whether you fall into the category of people who buy such posters, or cynics like me who scoff at them, you can learn a great deal about goal setting, management excellence and achieving greatness from Daniel James Brown’s best-selling book, The Boys In the Boat, which tells the amazing story of a group of depression era outsiders – the national champion University of Washington men’s crew – who went on to win gold for the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The Boys in the Boat Lessons in Strategy Execution
I’ve read a number of good pieces about The Boys that draw management, strategy execution and leadership lessons from what these remarkable young men achieved. But none written by anyone that rowed themselves. And none focused less on The Boys themselves, and more on the Yoda like spiritual guru of the story, legendary racing shell builder George Pocock, whose workshop was in the attic of the UW Conibear Shellhouse.

Boys is chock full of inspirational quotes by Pocock that put rowing into perspective in a way I’ve never heard. This first may pain some folks when they think about the cost of four years of college, but it’s the truth and I’m happy to hear someone else feels the same way I do:
“Every good rowing coach imparts the kind of self-discipline required to achieve the ultimate from mind, heart and body. Which is why most ex-oarsmen will tell you they learned more… in the racing shell than in the classroom.”

So, as a tribute to The Boys, their coaches and Pocock (the name emblazoned on the wooden eight I first rowed in as a freshman at Ithaca College), here is a summary of lessons in strategy execution and business leadership to help lead any kind of team to collaborative greatness.

Pocock: “In a sport like this – hard work, not much glory… well, there must be some beauty which ordinary men can’t see, but extraordinary men do.”
Lesson 1: A great team must share a vision. As a leader, it is your responsibility to impart this to your team. To inspire them to want to bring this vision to come to fruition regardless of the challenges ahead. When you can create that kind of shared, aligned sense of vision among a team of like-minded and talented people, greatness follows.

Pocock: “It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy is the resistance of the water… But that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support and make you strong in overcoming them.”
Lesson 2: Overcoming adversity makes the team stronger. Fans of HBO’s Silicon Valley might liken this to Gavin Belson, CEO of Google look-alike Hooli, trying to convince the board that “failure = success.” But we also all know this to be true. No great success happens without rising to overcome challenges. Each time a team does this, they get better and better. Especially when you set out to accomplish big things at the start.

Pocock: “Rowing a race is an art… rowed with head power as well as hand power… all thoughts of the other crew must be blocked out. Your thoughts must be directed to you and your own boat.”
Lesson 3: Excellence comes from focus. Anyone who has ever rowed will back this up. When you take time to glance at the crew next to you to see if you are beating them, you lose. It throws off the balance of the boat. The Boys had an acronym they’d repeat to themselves: MIB, “Mind In Boat.” It holds true in business too. Keep your eyes on what you’re doing. And an eye on where your customer is going. When you think too much about your rivals, you risk second-guessing your own path to greatness.

Pocock: “Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart and body.”
Lesson 4: Don’t micromanage. Provide guidance, inspiration, leadership at the start and whenever necessary. But give people responsibility while the race is in progress. Let them push themselves to their own limits. This will bring out the best in them. Just like in business: give your employees visibility and alignment to the strategic plan and empower them for excellence in strategy execution.

Pocock: “A boat is a sensitive thing, an eight-oared shell, and if it isn’t let go free, it doesn’t work for you.”
Lesson 5: Empower your team with the courage to change strategy. The Boys learn this first hand. On their way to the Olympics, they need to win a few major US collegiate races first. In one decisive race, coxswain Bobby Moch hangs behind rival Cal for the bulk of the race, waiting to strike as they close in on the finish. Coach Al Ulbrickson didn’t tell him to do this, it was definitely not part of the race plan, but Moch read the situation as it unfolded and changed strategy on the fly. The result; stellar strategy execution and a huge win that led to Washington’s Olympic berth.


Archival video of 1936 US Olympic win. Note, eights start at 1:09 mark, at 2:44 the US boat first appears, at 3:22 they win.

Pocock: “One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach… is ‘pull your own weight,’ and the young oarsman does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does.”
Lesson 6: Hold people accountable. Once you set your plan in motion, hold people responsible. Accountability is highly correlated with strong strategy execution. Reward them if they deliver. If they can’t, replace them with someone who can. The Boys introduces us to ‘seat races’ where two boats race, stopping to trade rowers to see who makes the boat go faster. When you find out, they win the seat. That’s how high performance teams are created.

Pocock: “When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes – that ‘swing’ as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek… when that swing comes in an eight; it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”
Lesson 7: Plan, execute, monitor, repeat. A team that plans well, and executes well against plan, becomes a well-oiled machine destined to achieve objectives and win repeatedly. When you build and empower a team to do this, there is no limit to what they can achieve working together.

Pocock: “To be of championship caliber, a crew must have total confidence in each other… confident that no man will get the full-weight of the pull…”
Lesson 8: Goals must be alignmed across the entire team. This is true in many team sports. Anyone who can’t see or support the shared vision or goal can bring the entire team down with them. But when there is true transparency, and when they realize that all the other members of the team are aligned and counting on one another, it brings out the best in each member of the team. This holds true in business: if employees can’t see or support the strategic plan, strategy execution is bound to fail.

Pocock: “My ambition has always been to be the greatest shell builder in the world…I believe I have attained that goal. If I were to sell the stock, I feared I would lose my incentive and become a wealthy man, but a second-rate artisan. I prefer to remain a first-class artisan.”
Lesson 9: Goals must transcend attainment of wealth. It is fine to want to get rich. But the path to riches is faster when people have a larger goal in mind. When you wish to be the best at something first, wealth follows. The reverse of this story is not often so certain.

Finally, Lesson 10, not one from Pocock, but rather, from me.
Lesson 10: Let it run. Along with the “swing” Boys talks about, there is another great Zen-like experience in rowing called the run. It occurs when a crew rowing at full speed stops rowing suddenly and holds their oars just above water level and lets the boat glide. A great crew will find their boat runs like it’s flying. I’m lucky enough to have rowed in a boat that did this a good bit. The experience translates well to business. When a leader empowers their team to be their best, and then steps out of the way to let them do it, great things happen as a result.

There are of course lessons to learn about strategy execution, teamwork and leadership excellence from all sports. But not many that inspire the kind of fanaticism that crew does. For most people who participate in crew, their playing days end after college. I haven’t sat in a crew shell in, well… a long time. But it is ingrained in my psyche to this day. I try to bring it to work with me every day. And now, thanks to the story of The Boys In The Boat, and the inspirational words of George Pocock, you can, too.

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:

  1. Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
  2. Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.

That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let’s actually do this.

How to Tackle Strategic Planning Season

5 Steps to Tackle Strategic Planning Season

By Amanda Ferenczy

5 Steps to Tackle Strategic Planning Season

With the first day of Fall nearly upon us, we should be preparing for more than just changing leaves, football, and bonfires. It is officially strategic planning season, and time to prepare budgets and annual plans for the upcoming year! Organizations often utilize a strategic plan to help them move towards a more desirable state. An effective strategy designates the best course of action for a company to take in order to achieve new organizational goals. But an effective strategy depends first on the process of strategy formulation. After all, the more care that goes into the development of your strategic plan, the more likely it is to succeed during the execution phase. Mindful of each organization's unique strengths and challenges, we feel that overall effective strategy formulation is best executed with careful consideration of the following five steps of development:

Step 1: Develop a Vision Statement

Before you can develop a strategic roadmap to guide your company from A to B, it is imperative that you clearly identify where exactly your company is trying to go. The development of a vision statement – a description of a strategy’s desired end-goal -- is vital to the effectiveness of a strategic plan, and is the best starting point to chart a course of company growth and improvement. An effective vision statement encapsulates the future of an organization, while offering a framework for strategic, operational and business planning. A successful vision statement clearly articulates expected outcomes for the strategic plan, presents a strong portrayal of the company’s future and sets a course for strategic planning designed to push a company beyond the industry status quo. Rather than aiming beyond their current market position, all too often, companies plan around visions they have already accomplished. In order for a strategy to successfully guide significant and meaningful change, it must effectively designate a vision statement that is bold in what it aims to achieve.

Step 2: Define Your Mission Statement

Similar to the way a vision statement identifies where a company is trying to go, a mission statement explains how a company is going to get there. Your mission statement should articulate the big-picture purpose of the strategic plan and provide a description of the company’s core executable values – values that will be better expressed and emphasized as the result of executing the strategic plan. Your mission statement will serve as a philosophical foundation for effective business planning. After all, the goal of most strategic plans is to achieve the company mission. A strong mission statement defines a company’s fundamental purpose and values, offering a static point of reference during the course of strategic growth and development. Make sure your mission statement defines why your company does what it does and inspires passion and commitment. A clearly defined mission statement is an incredibly important component of the strategic plan, as it helps drive strategic execution, provides direction and serves as a touchstone for decision-making.

Step 3: Evaluate the Competitive and Operational Environment

In order to develop a strategic plan that aims higher than a company’s current market position and can be executed without major internal and external obstacles, a company must conduct competitive and operational environment evaluations. An evaluation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) provides companies with a clear sense of the context in which strategic change will be taking place. The interconnectedness of these categories helps inform a comprehensive understanding of the company’s current standing and offers insight into both the current condition and future potential of the business.

Step 4: Establish Company Goals and Objectives

Once you have explained where you’re going (vision statement), how you are going to get there (mission statement), and your potential obstacles and opportunities (SWOT), you can then establish goals and objectives for executing the strategic plan. Strategic goals should be clearly defined and include highly specific and actionable descriptions of objectives. A strong focus eases plan execution and increases the plan’s potential effectiveness. Goals should also be quantifiable, as metric-based goals are easily translated during execution and can help keep participants engaged and on-task. Additionally, goals must be time-bound with clearly defined start and end dates to ensure efficient use of time and resources.

Step 5: Assign Accountability

Upon defining clear goals and objectives, the task of each goal should be assigned to specific individuals, teams and departments within the organization. By assigning ownership, you are ensuring better execution of strategic goals. Accountable employees – agents of strategic change – help reinforce the organization’s mission and vision while fostering a culture of passion and enthusiasm within the company. Responsibility fuels a sense of purpose, which incentivizes thorough and thoughtful goal execution. Additionally, having those in management positions monitor performance accountability helps guarantee goals and objectives are met through the valuation of task completion. Effective strategies are not one-size-fits-all, but these steps for effective strategy formulation can be customized to reflect the unique goals and characteristics of your organization. While different companies will best endeavor change with custom strategies, we feel strongly that these developmental steps are universally valuable during the process of effective strategy formulation.

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:
  1. Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
  2. Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.
That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let's actually do this.
KeyStepstoCommunicatingYourStrategicPlan

13 Key Steps to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

By Amanda Ferenczy

13 Key Steps to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

FEATURING GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Gary Cohen, Managing Partner, CO2 Partners, LLC
Creating a strategic plan is quite an undertaking for any business. Not only are you often hiring outside firms to facilitate the process, but you are also using an enormous amount of internal resources to gather data, convert it into meaningful information and sort that data during over 3-5 days of meetings with your key players. What is fascinating, is how often this effort fails-- not in terms of determining the business' path forward, but in disseminating the information broadly and effectively to all the members of the organization, especially those that were not part of the decision-making team. A great strategic plan should have focus and clarity around vision, mission, objectives, strategies and actions. In order to elevate engagement and participation, a communication plan needs to provide great simplicity, clarity and focus, without ambiguity.

Communication Strategy in 13 Steps

1. Call an all company meeting

This meeting is focused around communicating the organization's strategic plan. If you have any thoughts that information from your senior team will leak before the meeting, use email or text message to get out in front of your messaging.

2. Who’s coming to the party

Review in detail who will be present and what level of detail they will need. You want to create comfort around any changes that might affect them. Think through the negative, as well as positive aspects of the strategic plan. When it comes to change, people will always assume the worst, so it's important to get it all out at once. Step 2 to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

3. Provide conceptual tools

During the meeting, describe the basic principles of a strategic plan, as well as any new terms or definition of terms. For example, if you discuss EBITDA, (earnings before interest tax and depreciation) don’t assume all your employees will understand what you mean. If you use a Balance Scorecard Model, take employees through the basics so that they can understand the meaning behind what you are about to explain to them. The more they truly understand, the more buy-in you will receive from them in the end.

4. Tell and retell the history

Provide a broader base about the history of the organization in order to create context around how strategy plays a part in the growth of the company. You can provide the key elements of what has led to your growth, challenges in the past and how that has informed your future direction. Step 4 to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

5. Reveal the competition

Describe your competitive advantages and disadvantages with specific examples. In other words, name the competition. It may surprise you to know how few people actually think about the impact competition has on your business and direction.

6. Compare and contrast

Compare past planning processes with current ones. Some organizations have had very bad strategic plans or poor execution of plans, which can give you a bad rap among employees. If you are not specific about how this year is different from the past, you may have a tsunami of resistance against your planning before you have even begun to change it. Get ahead of the resistance by naming the difference. Step 6 to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

7. Connect employees to the plan

Describe how this strategic plan differs from ones in the past. If you went out to employees with surveys, make sure they understand how they participated in the creation of the plan. Making connection points with employees will help find a mental place for them to store the information you are sharing. Without this many companies disconnect with their people and it directly impacts employee engagement. Dow Corning uses a matrix that focuses on Intellectual Understanding and Emotional Commitment of their employees. Those that are high in both are considered Champions. If you execute your communication plan well you are more likely to develop Champions within your organization.

8. Describe the plan

Explain what barriers may arise that could potentially prevent your organization from achieving its vision, mission, objectives and actions. Remember that all employees have different levels of understanding, so make sure that you not only describe the numerics of the strategic plan, but also what the terms mean and why they are meaningful to understanding the business. Differentiate between signal and noise for your employees to determine relevancy. Step 8 to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

9. Provide handouts of the plan

Don’t handout information that you wouldn't want your competitors to see – there is a fine line of  'what' information to share with 'who' within the company). If your strategic plan is in book format, do yourself a favor and don’t pass that out. Provide only the critical information that will help support your employees in doing their job.

10. Point out the differences

Describe how you would imagine these new differences will show up in behaviors throughout the organization. The greater clarity people have around the potential impact of these new changes, the higher your return on both your planning and your communication delivery. Step 10 to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

11. Ask them what they believe will be different and the same

Often times leaders don’t want to ask questions because they are afraid of what they may hear. Remember, just because you don’t hear it doesn't mean that they aren't thinking it and discussing  among themselves. The only difference of you asking is that you now will know what is going on for them.

12. Allow them to ask you questions

Often times this model puts you as the leader on a pedestal, which is not the leader of today. So be careful about showing up as the leader with all the answers. Step 12 to Communicating Your Strategic Plan

13. Reinforce Communication Strategy in regular intervals and in different ways

  • Ask them to each meet with their managers about the details and implications of how they do their work within the organization.
  • Provide a report card monthly on how the company and or area is doing against the strategic plan.
  • Provide employee reviews that directly connect back to the plan.
  • Tie compensation back to the success of plan initiatives.
  • Include connections in the company newsletter or intranet blog about successes and challenges associated with the strategic plan.
  • Put up a communication board or measurement graphic that will keep everyone connected back to the plan (be explicit).
  • Use infographics to present information back to employees.
  • Hold live quarterly employee meetings, or by video if you are challenged geographically, and reconnect everyone back to the strategic plan.
  • Use walls and screen savers to propagate company values and mission regularly.
  • Use an electronic score board on video monitors throughout organization.
  • Use metaphorical premiums that can represent the over-arching vision.
If you use some or all of these steps in your communication strategy you will reduce resistance and increase the likelihood of strategic plan success.  

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:
  1. Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
  2. Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.
That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let's actually do this.
About the Guest Contributor Gary CohenGary Cohen (CO2 Partners, LLC) Managing Partner Gary is famous for asking; he wrote the book on it. He probes his clients with the only kind of questions that can produce change: unexpected ones. From the client’s answers, this dedicated Minneapolis leadership coach offers not just insights but alternative courses of action. “There always are several good roads to Rome,” he says. “The key is to identify the one that best fits both your head and heart.” And he focuses on Rome–and not the possible curves in the road–for a simple reason: most obstacles are artificial, and the rest are in our heads. “Clear your head,” he has said, “and the obstacles disappear.” This may explain why Gary’s clients call him “eccentric in exactly the right way.” He knows that unusual success comes from unusual approaches, and–as Gary often has said, “I never have met a client who wanted to be ordinary.”CO2 Partners CEO experience: Managing Partner and Co-founder of CO2 Partners, LLC in 2004 an Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Firm. Founded ACI in 1989 with $4,000 and two employees, then grew 48 percent compounded annually for 12 years to over 2,200 employees and went public on the NASDAQ; Venture Magazine’s Top 10 Best Performing Businesses; and Business Journal’s 25 Fastest Growing Small Public Companies and Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Board memberships: All Kinds of Minds, Harvard Alumni Club of Minnesota, IC Systems, Inc., Richfield Bank, ACI, Telecentrics,, Outward Bound National Advisory, HBS Alumni Club of Minnesota (Past President), Minnesota Zoo Foundation among others. Author: Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill 2009); articles for Business Week, Leader to Leader, and Forbes. Clients: Unilever, Intel, Genentech, MetLife, Thermo-Fisher, and 100 -plus entrepreneur-led businesses. Education: University of Minnesota (B.A); Harvard Business School; Covey Leadership Center; Disney Leadership Institute; and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow. Want to know more about Gary’s approach to leadership and life? Read his blog, Elements of Leadership.