Is strategy the best kept secret in your organization? Is your organization’s execution impervious to its strategy? Does your organization continuously and proactively advance and adapt its strategy? These are all answers you must ask yourself to be able to properly lead your business.
Lack of strategy execution
For several reasons, companies struggle to develop a strategy and execute that strategy successfully. On one end of the spectrum there are companies, consumed by their daily operations and fire-fighting, that have no time, interest or ability in developing and articulating a strategy for the future. Management and employees in such companies primarily focus on their routine work and spend little time on strategically advancing the organization to the next level. Their wheels are stuck rotating in status quo.
On the other end of the spectrum there are companies that have been burned by elaborate and time consuming strategic planning initiatives that produced no results. Often, due to fast changing market conditions, the plans were obsolete almost as soon as they were developed. In other situations, internal and external pressure led the management team and employees to execute in any manner possible to achieve their financial goals, and completely overlook or disregard their strategic plan. The strategic planning exercise was soon regarded in these companies as an exercise in futility. Strategy had unceremoniously died at the altar of execution.
The marriage of strategy and execution
Strategy is about making sure the organization is doing the right things and that those things are effective. Execution is about making sure that the organization is doing things to make that happen and doing it efficiently. Productivity equals effectiveness, efficiency and volume.
The productivity of an organization is a factor of doing the right things, doing them well and the quantity or volume of work done. Strategy and execution are both necessary components for a productive organization.
When companies do not execute a strategy, they stop evolving. Continuously advancing the strategy is as important a goal as delivering operational and financial results. If operations are the back wheel of your metaphorical business bicycle, strategy is the front wheel.
How do you strike the right balance? How do you spend the appropriate amount of time to develop a timely strategy and ensure your organization incorporates the strategy in its everyday execution?
As the leader, you must draw a line in the sand. You must communicate that developing and following a strategy is not a choice. The company may not need an expensive and laborious strategic plan, but it absolutely needs strategic thinking. And, strategic thinking not once a year during a management retreat, but multiple and regular strategic review sessions during the year to evaluate the company’s execution and modify the strategy as needed to adapt to changing external and internal conditions.
Strategic thinking and review sessions that are interspersed during the year will be less time consuming than annual retreats and closely reflect execution data and ground realities. These reviews will help the organization consciously and deliberately balance its long-term and short-term needs. Regular strategic reviews will ensure the organization does not forget the need to make strategic advances, and at the same time provide the impetus to adjust the operational and execution thrust to match the strategy.
This tight integration between strategy and execution will ensure that the two wheels of the business bicycle act in tandem. It will provide your organization a better sense of direction while providing it the agility and nimbleness to stay ahead of the competition.
Ravi Kathuria is president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting and executive coaching firm, and he is president of the Houston Strategy Forum. He is a recognized thought leader quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, WorldNews, and featured on CBS Radio and the BusinessMakers Show. He is the author of The Coherent Company; The Struggle for the Next Level - A Business Parable.
What are the ingredients to help you grow your business? I recently discussed hyper-growth with Michael Holthouse. He founded Paranet, grew it rapidly and sold it to Sprint for $375 million. He is now exponentially growing Lemonade Day, the flagship program at his nonprofit, Prepared 4 Life. Here is what you need to do to achieve hyper-growth within your own company.
Passion and purpose
Passion and purpose are the foundation of your business. Ask yourself and your team, why are you in that specific business? If your primary answer is making money, then you may grow in the short term but long-term, sustainable growth will be a challenge. Find your passion or find another business.
“Our passion at Paranet was to invent a new paradigm in the computer-networking world. It drove us,” Holthouse says. “And, our purpose at Prepared 4 Life is to help America’s youth develop business and entrepreneurial skills.”
Clarity of the business model
Understand and articulate with absolute clarity your core management philosophies that detail your business model and approach. If your core philosophies are ambiguous, achieving hyper-growth will be excruciatingly difficult.
“I strongly believe in a decentralized organization,” Holthouse says. “It is a business model that allowed us to produce rapid growth.”
Big, audacious vision
While your passion and purpose must create a sense of commitment, your vision must create excitement.
“I like fast-growing, high-impact organizations,” he says. “We set an audacious but achievable goal of reaching $100 million in revenue in five years. We needed a vision that inspired people. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than them.”
Hyper-growth is rarely a linear path. You will have to be opportunistic and nimble. Your strategy must dynamically respond to ground realities and execution data. A stale strategy will kill hyper-growth. If you are clear about the business model and are nimble in your strategy then you can bring the right products to the market at the right time.
“Our strategy to find an intersection of interests with other entities such as schools, community and religious organizations has allowed us to grow LemonadeDay rapidly,” he says.
Scalable work processes
Hyper-growth involves rapidly scaling up your business. Small cracks turn into gaping holes as the organization grows. Therefore, you must ensure your work processes are well designed and consistent with your mission and vision. The interactions and handshakes between the teams, the roles and responsibilities, the expectations and accountabilities must be crystal clear.
“We held everyone accountable to predefined goals and gave them the authority to achieve the goals based on their talents and drive,” Holthouse says.
Hyper-growth is not for everyone. It takes a different mindset. The willingness to not just survive but thrive on change. You must hire the right people who understand hyper-growth, want to excel in that environment and have the desire and the wherewithal to succeed. The right culture provides the energy to help the organization self-propel itself to great heights.
“If you are going to reinvent an industry, hire the leaders in the industry — the eagles. Eagles fly one at a time, they are majestic, they soar; ducks you will find a dime a dozen,” he says. “Eagles are A players. They will help create the right culture.”
The focus on making it happen makes all the difference. Fighting the distractions, the ambiguities and the confusion and making relentless progress toward their vision are the hallmarks of companies who achieve hyper-growth.
“To be successful say what you are going to do, do it when you say it will be done, do it for the price you said, and if you do that consistently, your customer will never leave you,” Holthouse says.
Ravi Kathuria is president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive coaching and sales coaching firm, and he is president of the Houston Strategy Forum. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, WorldNews, and featured on CBS Radio and the BusinessMakers Show. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “The Coherent Company, The Struggle for the Next Level.”
As a business leader, one of your most important jobs is to continuously transform your company. If you believe your company can survive and thrive in stand-still mode, you are mistaken. Regardless of whether your company chooses to transform or not, the marketplace is constantly changing.
Staying ahead of the curve
Many companies believe growth is a linear path, just continuing to do more of what they have done in the past. They must realize, however, that sustainable, healthy growth is a function of re-imagining and reinventing every aspect of their business constantly. History is full of examples of companies that fell in love with their then hugely successful products, only to find their business decimated in the coming years due to market changes.
Transformation may be revolutionary or evolutionary. Revolutionary transformation is disruptive and reconfigures the company. You often end up with a completely different company. Revolutionary transformation is necessary at times; however, if overused can tear a company apart and make it lose its bearings.
Evolutionary transformation is preferable. It allows a company to build on its strengths, question its assumptions in the face of changing marketplace conditions, challenge itself to drive product and process innovation and invention, and be ahead of the curve by not being afraid to take well-calculated risks.
Understanding and appreciating the need for transformation is one thing; to be able to execute your vision of change is another. Knowing what must change and what must not change is critical to achieving success. Many companies try to change their fundamental business model without realizing the implications. Transformation must start by reaffirming the spirit, the business DNA of the organization. Doing so will ensure transformation does not violate the mission and core management philosophies/business model of the organization.
It is human nature to resist change and fear the unknown. Likewise, organizations, for many good reasons, protect their legacies. As a leader, you must create a sense of urgency for transformation. Marketing inside the organization to gain employee support is as important as marketing outside. The case for transformation cannot be made on emotions and passion alone. It must be made based on hard facts, data and thorough analysis. The pros and cons of staying with the status quo must be carefully articulated. And, the right expectations must be set about the magnitude of change and the pace of change.
Reinventing the Baylor College of Medicine
Last year, Dr. Paul Klotman took over as the CEO of the Baylor College of Medicine, an institution established more than 100 years ago. With an operating budget exceeding $1 billion and total research support of $400 million, BCM ranks as one of the top 25 medical schools for research in the U.S.
Do you transform a well-established and successful organization such as BCM? Absolutely. Dr. Klotman is leading an inspired charge to reinvent BCM. Dr. Klotman says Baylor has been a fabulous research institution, but he believes it must now rebalance itself to include greater emphasis on the clinical component. He has built a case that shows Baylor’s research will progress even faster when it closely and directly links to patient care and cure.
While BCM has built an enviable national reputation, Dr. Klotman is transforming BCM to build a global footprint. He points out that health care issues are no longer isolated or contained within one region of the world. The U.S. is vulnerable to outbreaks that have occurred in other countries, and other countries across the globe are increasingly dealing with many of the health issues that we have faced, such as diabetes, cancer and heart ailments. He is repositioning BCM to play a vital role in the health care education and research needs of the interconnected world.
Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader and president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting and executive coaching firm. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, WorldNews, and featured on CBS Radio and the BusinessMakers Show. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Coherent Company: The Struggle for the Next Level.
The unrelenting economic changes and cycles have forced companies to rethink everything. In increasing numbers, companies are now asking their executives to re-engineer themselves by taking on roles in which they have no prior experience. For instance, a company may ask its head of sales to manage IT or ask its CFO to run sales.
In a recent survey, conducted by Cohegic Corp., 75 percent of the respondents said their companies are indeed asking executives to take on roles in unfamiliar areas.
Two-thirds of the large company and half of the midsized company respondents indicated the primary driver for reassigning executives was to facilitate career growth. Smaller companies, on the other hand, specified downsizing and financial constraints as the primary driver. More than 60 percent of the small and midsize company respondents felt cross-assignments for executives is a trend here to stay.
Changing your perspectives
As an executive, you must be prepared and willing to reinvent yourself. In order to serve your company well, you must stop thinking of yourself only as a functional expert. At lower levels, functional expertise is a plus, but at upper-management levels, limited cross-functional exposure could be a liability for the company.
Managing areas of the organization in which you have no prior experience could be a potent way to change the “silo” mindset. Challenge your new team’s assumptions and standard procedures and challenge your own perspectives.
Steps to achieve success
Taking on an unfamiliar role is a daunting challenge and involves great risk. When assigned an unfamiliar role, you must consider several steps to achieve success.
Rediscover yourself: You must have a clear understanding of why the company specifically chose you for the opportunity. What does the company expect you to deliver? You must realize that your new responsibility is all about change management. The company expects you to introduce change — change in mindset, approach, culture, process, people, pace of progress, performance, etc.
Research: You must first listen. Do not be impulsive and impatiently thrust your knowledge on your team. Do not be superficial in your assessment. If you take the time to understand and diagnose the situation in detail, you will gain greater respect and cooperation from the team as you push for difficult changes. It will also give you an opportunity to build a relationship with key influencers within the team.
Relearning: Develop a new perspective. Learn how things work in this unfamiliar area of the business. Remove your previous filters, preconceived notions and biases. Do not be a know-it-all, because what got you here may not help you get there. Make it clear to the team that you have a lot to learn and remind the team they have a lot to learn from you. It is a partnership, their technical knowledge and your new approach will create the right recipe for success.
Reapply yourself: Bring to bear your management, leadership, analytical and problem-solving skills and your ability to work the organization and make things happen. Leverage your energy, enthusiasm, and confidence to help the team rise to the occasion. In order to produce change, you have to make the case for change and help your team appreciate the sense of urgency. Explain your vision and the steps to realize the vision. You will need to enlist key people from the team so you can build a coalition for success.
Results: Solve the problem, address the need and produce results. Resist the temptation to fixate on tactical issues. Do not forget why the company assigned you the role and what it expects you to deliver. Keep your focus on the big picture and never waver from the overarching goal.
Ravi Kathuria is president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting and executive coaching firm, and he is president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, WorldNews and featured on CBS Radio and the BusinessMakers Show. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Coherent Company: The Struggle for the Next Level.
No organization can achieve the next level of business growth and development without clarity and coherence. While they seem to be simple concepts, underestimating the innate power of clarity and coherence is a critical mistake many leaders make.
The innumerable business variables, competing agendas, and differing expectations among executives and employees about what is important in the business create the bedrock for suboptimal performance. Not sure if your company has room for improvement? Answer these questions and judge for yourself:
- Do the executives and employees of your company truly understand the passion and purpose behind the company?
- Do your company’s business model, core management philosophies and strategies leave room for ambiguity or are they crystal-clear?
- Do the teams clearly define the work processes to ensure flawless coordination and update them regularly to reflect the ever-changing strategies?
- Are internal politics and egos undermining success? Has the company proactively cultivated the desired culture?
- Is execution in sync with the strategy? Is the company using internally or externally focused performance metrics?
- Is the company continuously transforming its strategy, capabilities and execution while staying true to its DNA?
To be an effective leader, you must connect coherently all the strategic aspects of your business so the other executives and employees can follow and contribute to the thought process and reliably execute the strategy. You can become a coherent company by following the Cohegic Method, which has five essential facets: Spirit, which is static and at the center; direction, engine and execution, which are dynamic and constantly changing; and the fifth facet, cohesion, keeping all the facets aligned.
Spirit articulates why the organization exists and details its business model. Many companies fail to crystallize their spirit, which leads to a corporate identity crisis. Spirit is the foundation, the DNA of the organization. It is the unchangeable, nonnegotiable aspect of your company.
Direction specifies where your organization is heading, why and with what speed. Many organizations don’t link their strategies with goals and visions. As a result, various teams head in different directions.
Engine is the infrastructure needed to execute the strategy. Without clearly defined work processes, achieving high efficiency and quality will remain a pipe dream. When companies design roles and responsibilities based on internal political considerations and not strategic imperatives, they undermine their ability to perform and poison the organizational culture.
Execution is about discipline and a sense of urgency. Managers at all levels in your company must follow-through by inspecting and monitoring key activities and indicators to drive the right performance. Execution is about delivering the right results.
Cohesion is the most overlooked facet in companies. You must ensure the spirit, direction, engine, and execution stay in-sync, and the stakeholders (investors, board, customers, management, employees, suppliers, community) remain on the same page as your company transforms continuously. Your company can never stand still.
Every issue you face, and every decision you make falls within one of these five facets. As a leader, you must understand them, understand how they work as a system, and help your organization answer the difficult questions associated with each facet. Answering them will be an eye-opening experience and the new appreciation will form the springboard to go to the next level by becoming a coherent company.
Ravi Kathuria is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “The Coherent Company: The Struggle for the Next Level — A Business Parable,” and founder and president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm.
If you could ask your team and yourself only one fundamental question, what would it be? How can we increase revenue and profits? How can we perform better as a team? What are the challenges we are facing? There is a more fundamental question to ask.
Many companies, caught up in the day-to-day activities, lose sight of the purpose and passion behind the company. When I ask many executives what the purpose of their business is, without batting an eyelid, they respond it is to make money.
There are a million ways to make money. What compels you to commit to your specific line of business? If your answer does not relate to your passion, then you may be undermining your success. The most fundamental and searching question you can ask your team and yourself is, ‘Why are you passionate about this business?’
Many companies consider themselves purpose-driven. It isn’t sufficient to have a purpose. You must be passionate about that purpose. A company’s mission statement must capture its passion and purpose. The mission must create a strong and clear sense of commitment, serving as an invitation for people to join the bandwagon. Those who subscribe to the mission, join the company, and those who don’t, join a different bandwagon. Having a team that is passionate about the mission can be the difference between mediocre and superior performance.
Let’s look at two mission statements:
1: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
2: “As we strive to become Earth’s most customer-centric company, we constantly look for new ways to innovate on behalf of our different customers: individuals who shop our global websites, merchants who sell on our platform … and creators of the books, music, films, games and other content we sell through our websites. Our greatest contribution to the good of society comes directly from these core business activities.”
If you couldn’t guess, the first mission statement is Google’s, and the second is Amazon’s. Google’s passion to organize the world’s massive information is evident in its actions and its name — derived from the mathematical term googol (a one followed by a hundred zeros). Amazon, too, is passionate about its mission.
Larger and older companies are often at a greater risk of losing sight of their passion. They become mechanical entities driven by the sole need to live up to Wall Street expectations. They lack the spark — lack the spirit — and can find themselves left behind in the marketplace by new startup companies that are committed and passionate about their product or service. Spirited companies are more likely to create the “magic.”
The mission statement isn’t just a feel-good statement or artwork for the office walls to impress visitors. The mission must drive the company’s thinking and actions. A passionate mission alone won’t deliver success. You do have to execute your strategy well, but a strong and specific mission will become the fuel for your engine.
At my speaking engagements, I sometimes ask audience members to share their passion. At one event, a business owner shared her story. When her father passed away, the funeral home treated her family as second-class customers, because the family wanted to cremate her father as opposed to bury him. Not wanting others to suffer the same indignity, she started a funeral home business. The passion to take care of others during their difficult times drives her. It is this conviction that makes her business special and successful.
Rediscover your passion.
Ravi Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive coaching firm. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Coherent Strategy and Execution: An Eye-opening Parable about Transforming Leadership and Management Perspectives.” To contact Kathuria, please call (281) 403-0250 or visit www.cohegic.com.
Wal-Mart and Apple operate in different industry segments with different business models, and yet the same management principles drive their long-term success. What is it they are doing that you need to do in your business?
Wal-Mart and Apple have absolute clarity about their core management philosophies, and they do not violate them. Core management philosophies define a company’s business approach and its fundamental choices. The combination of these choices creates a company’s unique position or business model in the marketplace. The strict adherence to these core philosophies often creates an unassailable advantage.
Wal-Mart ranked No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list in 2010 and reported profits of $14.3 billion. It has the money and resources to carry any merchandise it desires in its stores. Why is it, then, that you are not likely to find a $2,000 suit or dress in a Wal-Mart store? If you did, as a customer, what would go through your mind?
Wal-Mart’s core management philosophies include operational efficiency, lower prices and higher volume. Wal-Mart does not feature high-end merchandise in its stores. It would confuse its customers, employees and suppliers. The customer of a $2,000 dress has a very different set of expectations than that of a customer of a $30 dress. Selling a $2,000 dress requires a markedly different selling process than selling a $30 dress. Wal-Mart knows its business model and strictly adheres to it.
How well articulated are your core management philosophies? Is there ambiguity about your business model? Core philosophies are part of the DNA of your company. If there is confusion about the DNA, the company will not do well. Core philosophies affect everything the company does from its vision, goals and strategy to its capabilities, processes, roles and responsibilities, culture, performance measurement, and execution. Therefore, it is critical for you to identify your core management philosophies.
Business experts and consumers regard Apple as a highly innovative company. Many other companies also claim to be innovative, but Apple innovates in a special manner. It follows a core philosophy that permeates every single product it puts out in the marketplace. Apple constantly breaks new ground to make its products intuitive and easy to use. That is Apple’s No. 1 mantra, and it sets Apple’s products apart in the marketplace. Go out and search — you are unlikely to find an Apple product that is not easy to use.
Core philosophies are at a higher level than strategies. Strategies may change but core philosophies remain the same regardless of internal or external conditions. To identify its core philosophies, your company should consider if there are any unchangeable, non-negotiable aspects that define its business approach. Some questions for you to ask include: Does your company limit itself to certain industry verticals, market segments, account sizes, specific customer needs and specific product/service attributes?
Look around and identify successful businesses, whether they are Fortune 500 companies or the local bakery store. If you examine these successful businesses closely, you will find they all have a set of core management philosophies that they do not violate. It defines their business. It is their DNA.
It does not matter what core management philosophies you choose. Every answer is right. What is important is to have a clear answer that removes all ambiguity. You may select operational efficiency and low prices like Wal-Mart or you may choose superior products and premium pricing like Apple. Know what you are choosing and make sure all your stakeholders — employees, customers, suppliers, investors, board and management — understand those choices. It may very well be the difference between success and failure.
Ravi Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting and executive coaching firm. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Coherent Strategy and Execution: An Eye-opening Parable about Transforming Leadership and Management Perspectives.”