3 Ways to Enhance Execution through Culture

This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of our healthcare clients who is rolling out excellent, forward-looking strategies. They aren’t just accepting the status quo, but continuing to improve across their organization. While the creation of strategies was successful, it quickly became evident that they have fallen into the trap of many organizations: execution struggles due to culture.

Unfortunately, the connection between culture and execution is something that is often overlooked by companies of all shapes and sizes. Leadership teams continue to create great strategies, yet fail to consider how their people and processes impact their plans. As Strategy& found in their 2013 survey of 2,200 global businesspeople, 84% of people believe culture is critical to business success yet only 35% think their company’s culture is effectively managed. If everyone is aware of the problem, why don’t they change? And do organizations truly not realize the impact of culture on execution? As I’ve seen time and time again, most organizations don’t always see the connection between culture and execution and if they do, it’s often difficult to impact.

While walking through our Execution Essentials workshop, where we assist organizations on the cultural aspects of execution, their barrier to execution success became evident. They have developed great strategies but are struggling to create a culture that enhances their execution. As concerns were raised throughout the session, I shared three practical ways to impact culture. By coincidence, these tips happen to align directly to the top reasons employees resist change presented by Strategy&. I have shared these same cultural changes with other organizations across multiple industries to help combat common missteps with execution, and believe these can be implemented in any organization to help execute more effectively.

1. Involve employees in the change process.

While many employees are motivated towards organizational change, most are not truly bought in until they understand what’s in it for them. Abbreviated as the WIIFM principle (or “What’s in it for me?”), employees are inherently motivated to achieve goals when they have a personal stake involved. While they may not openly admit it, your team wants to understand what role they play in the organization’s key initiatives and why their job is important. Do your strategies have “corporate terms” and come down from the executive team like Moses with the 10 Commandments? Try to find a way to communicate strategies and employee’s roles within those strategies in ways that relate to employee motivations and passions.

In the case of our client last week, we worked to change the verbiage of system goals from more “corporate terms” to verbiage that connect directly with what the nursing staff cares about most: aiding patients. Making small cultural changes at this level of detail has a much greater impact than the effort it takes to do it.

2. Reduce change fatigue due to competing priorities.

In most organizations, strategy is an afterthought amongst the whirlwind of day-to-day responsibilities. This may sound crazy to the strategists reading, but this is true of nearly every organization I have worked with. With the numerous reports, meetings, trainings and other objectives shoved in an employee’s day, individuals begin to make their own determination about what’s important and what’s not. Those items they hear about frequently (e.g. revenue, safety, operational efficiency)? Very important. Those items they don’t see frequently (e.g. strategic initiatives, long-term objectives)? Not as important. The overwhelming amount of information presented across the board creates competing priorities that lead to change fatigue and apathy towards strategy. It becomes a nice-to-have in a world of deadlines.

A simple cultural change to combat the “important” being only defined as “urgent” is to make strategy one of their key priorities through increased visibility and direct communication. This will increase the relative importance and excitement around strategy, reducing the change fatigue.

For our client last week, this was achieved by creating custom dashboards to display key initiatives and insights into organizational goals for employees to view. It’s now much easier for employees to align to-do lists under one of a few very important organizational objectives. With a better understanding of the company’s goals overall, they have a better perspective on which tasks are the most impactful.

3. Support cultural change with proper systems, processes and incentives.

Cultural change and execution don’t happen just because we want them to happen, they take dedication and commitment to move the needle. Without a strong process or system in place, tracking the progress of execution is nearly impossible and makes points 1 and 2 even harder to achieve. If you are serious about creating cultural change and executing strategies, make a commitment with a refined process and system. Once you have the process, earn buy-in across the organization, particularly at the leadership level. Having a process without buy-in and enforcement often ends in disappointment and poor execution.

While our client already committed to an execution system, we talked about ways to involve leadership from each service line to communicate the importance of strategy execution and the process we helped them create. Implementation and proper roll-out only occur with buy-in from all levels, clear communication and consistent tracking, and with their go-forward plan they’ll accomplish just that.

Better Execution Starts with Cultural Change

By making these three cultural changes I’ve seen lacking in the organization of every failed plan, you should be well on your way to creating a lasting culture that enhances execution. More questions on how AchieveIt helps customers execute with innovative software and industry leading best practices and support? Sign up for a demo or give us a call to learn more!