The optimism of a new year can easily vanish when teams turn from planning to managing. The demands of managing transactions and interactions take over focus and attention to longer-term, more strategic goals wanes. This “natural” shift back to the status quo is often left unchecked because many leaders believe the strategic leadership role ends when organizational goals are set. But this is a fallacy.
Planning is not over when the goals are set and the plan is communicated. A leader’s role in planning merely shifts from defining goals to stewardship.
When I talk to leaders frustrated with their organization’s progress in executing strategic plans, I ask what their role is in implementation. I often hear responses like:
“But I don’t want to be a micro-manager.”
“Isn’t that what they are supposed to be doing?”
I get it. It is hard to understand how to respect the management structure and still drive strategic performance. Yet, if you are getting frustrated with progress, help is needed so that you see the traction you desire AND you can do it without micromanaging or usurping a manager’s position. You must recreate your own strategic management objectives. In other words, prepare to lead.
To do this, gather your planning documents and spend just 30 minutes in this strategic management exercise to ensure you have a plan to lead.
1. Review your plans and commitments. Clarify where you must drive performance.
This is where you identify areas where there may not be enough leadership capacity to successfully divide attention between managing the day to day AND driving detailed planning on new priorities. Your goal here is to provide capacity for execution.
It could also be an area where the strategic goals require new skills sets or new capabilities. In this case, your guidance may be needed to ensure the right new capabilities. Your goal here is to provide strategic thinking for execution.
2. Think through and identify the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for each area where you believe your strategic management is needed.
What do you think is necessary to achieve your goals this year?
What concerns do you have about others driving performance against plan? Let yourself think about execution even in areas out of your direct control.
List the factors that you see as vital to success. We must…
Clarify what you can do about addressing these factors. What action can you take to make a difference.
3. Rank and order your objectives by strategic importance and timing. Set objectives for each quarter.
Take your list of CSFs and lay out your individual plan to support the execution of strategic goals over the entire year. Take other business or management objectives into account. If your business has a seasonality, account for it so that you don’t over commit during those busy times.
In the first part of the year, you may need to allocate time to provide strategic thinking so that activities are put in place. Later in the year, you may need to engage in meetings to ensure alignment or cross-functional planning. Don’t just front-load your commitments in the first part of the year, think through how you can drive performance throughout the year.
4. Review your strategic management objectives with your team and/or those influencing CSFs to ensure clarity and alignment. Make changes to your quarterly goals with their input.
This is where you actively address concerns of micromanagement or stepping on toes. If you have a meeting with someone that you think does not share your strategic thinking, critical to executing on your goals, schedule a meeting to share your thoughts and listen to theirs. I have seen great new partnerships formed by just inviting a dialogue. The manager overwhelmed with the thought of adding to their plate with new goals may be relieved and deeply appreciate the help.
If they are defensive or territorial and you still believe execution is at risk, keep this area in focus. It is better to identify gaps in performance sooner than later.5. Keep your Strategic Management Objectives visible and monitor your performance monthly.
The demands of leaders are dynamic and your plan for Strategic Management may suffer because of a highly distracting month or two. Get back on track by reviewing your plan monthly and sticking to it. Do this by putting a monthly appointment on your calendar to pull out and review your plan.
Alternatively, have each of your team leaders follow this practice and meet monthly to review in a round-table format. You don’t each have to read and report, just a quick check in to ask: “Are we each on track with our strategic management objectives?” Don’t let it take more than 45 minutes.
Learn to maintain your Leadership Momentum throughout the year.
Download Prepare to Lead: The Strategic Management Objective Exercise and get one tool per month for the entire year.