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Developing strategic skills in managers must include strategic implementation
Being strategic – in our thinking, planning and execution – is what makes the difference between someone who manages to the status quo and someone who is fully engaged in your dynamic, ever-changing business. If you want to maintain a process or procedure in a vacuum, go with the leader who is predictable and will unerringly follow the rules.
As we’ve written in previous blogs on leadership trends however, we are seeing a definite shift in leadership development. As the business environment around us shifts and changes, strategy in organizations is changing too. Organizations are in need of a whole new brand of leader with strong relationship skills as well as strategic skills.
It may look different from level to level in your organization, but one way of considering strategic skills, especially for emerging leaders, high potentials, and in-place managers, includes three distinct yet interrelated practice areas:
For this post, we’re focusing on the strategic execution aspect of strategy as a whole and how it translates to non-executive roles. How does a highly-effective manager ensure strategic implementation of strategic plans?
Executing on a solid plan is where organizations dedicate significant resources, too often faltering right out the gate. Great plans can fall apart in an instant.
Strategic thinking and planning are vital skills for leaders at all levels, but it is even more imperative that front-line and mid-level leaders hone their skill in implementing the changes they seek to lead others through. Execution done right is a disciplined process, a logical set of connected activities by an organization to make a strategy work.
Two core elements of successful execution or implementation:
- Clearly defined decision-making rights with a team, department or project
- Making sure the right information flows to the right people at the right time to implement the strategy
In this way, strategic implementation asks the manager to be a coordinator and conductor of people and information. In order to coordinate these moving parts, certain skills become necessary, including timely decision-making, solid problem-solving, process management, the ability to motivate others, and more.
Leaders who develop solid strategic implementation will demonstrate these competencies:
- Decision-making: I can make timely decisions, even with incomplete information and under tight deadlines.
- Solid time management: I value my time and others' time. I manage my time effectively and efficiently and focus my efforts on the most important priorities.
- Process and system management: I know how to organize people, activities, and resources, including how to separate and combine tasks to create efficient workflows. I know what to measure and how to measure it. I'm able to simplify complex processes. I know how to design practices, processes, and procedures to manage from a distance and can impact people and get results remotely.
- The ability to motivate others: I know how to create an environment in which people want to do their best work, regardless of different personalities and backgrounds. I willingly push responsibility and authority for making decisions down to others.
- Action focus: I enjoy challenging assignments and opportunities. I have energy and always look for opportunities. I can act with a minimum of planning.
- Perseverance: I demonstrate energy and drive to finish work and rarely give up before finishing. I'm able to creatively address resistance and setbacks in pursuit of my goals.
- Command skills: I look forward to being responsible and taking the lead on this work. I'm willing to take an unpopular stand if I think it's the right thing to do. I'm not afraid of engaging in tough debate to solve challenging problems. People look to me during times of crisis.
- Drive for results: I focus on exceeding the goal, not just meeting it. I seek to rank as a top performer. I focus on identifying and communicating the bottom line in terms of what we're trying to achieve. I ask, “Where do we need to push harder to get better results?”
- Delegation skills: I identify tasks that can be delegated and who I can share the responsibility and accountability with. I let employees finish work without micromanaging.
- The ability to direct others: I ensure we are clear on what is expected and who should be doing what, where, and when. I ask "What would be a stretch objective?" I think about who needs to know about each task and how work is distributed to make sure it is appropriate.
When leaders and teams are less skilled at implementation, you will frequently see scope creep, individuals in over their heads and floundering in their role, or requests for more people to pick up the slack of a poorly executed project. Organizations throw money at projects that looked good on paper but fail to deliver. We consider moving people to different positions. We may lose the confidence and trust of our most important asset, the people who are engaged in the work and the ones we ultimately serve.