This year we saw actual positive results from focusing on our strategy.
For the first time in 3 years we have seen an increase in the number of countries with new spiritual movements launched. This is the outcome from our Mission, and directly leads us towards our Vision. I do not believe that this has happened by accident, but that it is the result of 3 years of focus on one thing by senior leadership across about 170 countries.
Key lessons I learned from this success:
- Focus on one thing.
- For years and years.
- Don’t change the focus, and don’t change the rules. People can’t keep up with our ability to create change.
- Keep it simple – both the strategy, and the process for turning the strategy into something that people can execute day to day.
- Be consistent in messaging world-wide.
- Review progress frequently (we aimed at bi-weekly, but we probably ended up with monthly).
- Don’t allow your ability to think of new things to do distract you from the most important one thing.
- Don’t let up. I had an old boss who used to say “Don’t let them grind you down!”, although he used an expletive before the object of the sentiment to reinforce the point.
- Public accountability keeps even independent minded people focused on group goals.
I have been writing this blog now for nearly 2 years as I have been trying to figure out how to help 16,000 people spread across nearly 170 countries lead strategically. I hope that the fact that we have seen some success encourages you to stick to the strategy and use the strategic planning process to keep focused on the long term goal.
A while back I asked if you wanted to attend another meeting. The idea was that it is worth taking time to monitor the most important thing to do. Not convinced?
Well, I like the following quote from the Chairman and CEO of Societe Generale. He leads one of the world’s biggest banks, which has 154,000 employees.
“Because we are a service company, our principal differentiator is our people. I am very happy to see the progress our employees have made around client satisfaction. For example, the branches have decided to close for a half hour to an hour every week to discuss and monitor their progress on client satisfaction. The decision to close was a very difficult one, because obviously it meant less access for our clients. However, the branches are very pleased with the management benefit this time provides them. Some branches only have three or four employees, so they rarely, if ever, had time to meet as a team. In the end, I think this illustrates our people’s commitment to the vision, because their decision involved risk and they were able to see that the benefit outweighed that risk.”
Apparently, it is more important to close your business for 30 minutes a week to figure out if you are doing the right thing the other 39.5 hours, than it is to keep going because there is too much work to do. I find myself agreeing with this. Two key questions for all of us:
- What is the goal that we are trying to achieve?
- Are we achieving it?
I spent today working with an organization that had three strategic objectives for the year. The first was directly related to making quantifiable progress towards the Vision of the organization. Great. The last was a quantifiable financial objective. Great.
The middle objective was “planned, implementable, strategic cooperation between the (operational units of the organization)”. Rats!
There were 8 people around the table. Every one of the 8 people said that they knew that this was one of the most important things that they needed to do. I asked them each to write down three characteristics of what “strategic cooperation” looked like to them. We had 8 different perspectives of this objective. Everyone agreed that they needed it, but everyone had a different view of what it was. 2 hours later I gave up, but still the only thing that they all agreed was that they needed it. I ditched the issue, circumvented trying to define it further and went straight for an application of what one person wanted out of it (whatever it was). Not very professional of me.
It turns out that it is a lot easier for a team of people to implement a strategic plan when the objectives in the plan are:
Please help yourself and make strategic objectives SMART.