It’s no surprise to any professional in charge of leading a plan from ideation through to execution that about 70% of failed strategies don’t stem from a bad plan, but from bad execution (Fortune). And – only 10% of well-formed strategies are effectively executed (Forbes).
And guess what? It doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job.
As the champion of your strategic or operational plans, you’re in a uniquely challenging position in your organization. You’re tasked with leading two groups: the people determining direction and the people executing the work.
The concept of accomplishing an organizational strategy seems like a constant uphill battle. However, learning to harness the power of your role can immediately increase success. But before leveraging the position, it’s important to understand the key roles.
In most organizations, the strategic planning process kicks off with big events. Whether it’s a big town hall meeting or offsite retreats, the team reviews the results of the past and identifies the path forward. In these closed-door meetings, the room is filled with key individuals that will help ensure the proper decisions are made. These decisions include new strategic objectives, day to day operational changes, and ideally, ways to achieve the goals being established.
Based on research by Duke CE, we call these executives at the top of your organization the Architects. They’re focused at the highest level. Their challenge is to make significant strategic decisions that determine the direction and health of the organization. While they have significant responsibility, the architects often lack visibility into the progression of plans after the initial development.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is where most employees live. We recognize them as the Doers.
The Doers’ days are made up of a million tasks and action plans. They struggle with priorities and understanding how their daily work drives company success. Nothing gets accomplished without their expertise, but they regularly feel unheard by leadership.
If they feel unheard by leadership, it’s only a matter of time until their engagement in long-term initiatives wanes. In the midst of everything else on a daily basis, why should they care about something that doesn’t impact them?
This leaves you, sandwiched between the two teams. You are responsible for communicating the rationale behind the Architect’s plan to the Doers. Not only must you communicate, but you must also help the Doers understand how their work aligns with overarching goals. On the other end, your role involves filtering the intricacies of Doers’ tactical projects back to the Architect to solve roadblocks in a condensed, efficient way.
You are the Translator. The goal of your work is building a team of people pulling in the same direction, tracking the most relevant information to make the best decisions.
The role of Translator is nuanced and difficult. By building effective relationships with both groups, you earn the opportunity to act with the intent of the Architect, enabling quick decisions that aid the Doer.
Through the trust earned with the Doers, you receive realistic timelines and budgets and gain their buy-in on strategy. This buy-in helps transform your culture. As a result, your Architect will get the most complete, informed, and accurate picture of the business at any given time.
As Translator, you can unite your organization under the same cause, guide them to execute with intention, and actually accomplish what you set out to do.
Whether you’re the head of strategic planning, operational excellence, business transformation, or any other enterprise-wide role, you’re leading from the center of your organization. Your position in the center enables a powerful opportunity to leverage influence to lead the executive, managerial, and front-line leaders that surround you.
All you need is to reframe and renew your toolkit.
To understand why your position in the center makes it so difficult to track and monitor your cross-team plans – download the guide, Leading from the Center.
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