Gold medal strategy execution


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Ever wondered how you can improve your strategy execution to achieve the gold medal level? Project management and change management basics will not get you to gold medal level strategy execution. This article using a range of case studies to describe how to accelerate your execution and amplify your program outcomes.

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Gold medal strategy execution

  1. 1. If they were giving out gold medals at the Olympicsfor execution, would your organisation be a contender?How can you achieve gold medal execution in yourorganisation?This is part two in a series of articles on strategy execution. Previously, I compared threeexecution environments. Amateur execution is the lowest level where even the basics arenot in place. Professional execution is set up for reasonable execution productivity, but isnot the best it can be.Perhaps you’re operating at professional level, and wondering how you can accelerate yourprojects further to achieve the “gold medal” level. At professional level, you’ve implementedsolid project management disciplines, a change management framework and have a strongcommercial focus within your project team.Your question now is how to accelerate your execution and amplify your program outcomes.We can learn how to prepare for gold medal execution by considering lessons from Olympicathletes.Achieving gold medal executionAthletes who have gone professional are already training hard and achieving results. Tocompete in the Olympics and win gold, athletes need a much higher level of effort andWinning the gold medalfor strategy execution© Lisa Carlin 2013 • • 0418 115 939 • Page 1
  2. 2. © Lisa Carlin 2013 • • 0418 115 939 • Page 2focus. They draw from their fully integrated capability, competing on a physical, mentaland psychological level. They fully harness input and energy from their coaches and teammembers. They also harness sponsor support, and draw energy and inspiration fromthe broader community. They immerse themselves in the local environment to acclimatebefore their event.Let’s apply this analogy to a gold medal strategy execution team.Value integrated capabilityThe gold medal program or project manager draws from anintegrated capability across all three perspectives that I describedin a previous article: commercial, project and people perspective.Most program/project managers will present as having experienceacross all three, but in my experience of interviewing many variedprogram and project managers, few actually have an integratedperspective.Case ExampleI was asked to mentor an execution team who were piloting a new distribution modelfor a product.The business owner was not providing sufficient commercial input, and the projectmanager lacked commercial judgement, so that the solution piloted proceeded withouta rigorous business case, and missed subtle customer requirements. We workedtogether to halt the costly pilot.Ultimately a new team developed a distribution model with stronger commercialunderpinning, with a rigorous business case. This original execution team lacked acommercial perspective - a very expensive mistake.Furthermore, if the program or project manager works from an integrated perspective, theycan break down boundaries between different team members, fostering an environmentwhere the team works together seamlessly without compartmentalised planning. Youshould not have a separate project plan, people plan, change plan, or stakeholder plan– there is real synergy when they are integrated, and this means much more than justsynchronising dates and activities. It means that each planned activity is designed andexecuted from an holistic perspective.CommercialProject PeopleValueIntegratedCapabilityAcclimateHarnessSponsorSupportHarnessCommunityEnergy
  3. 3. © Lisa Carlin 2013 • • 0418 115 939 • Page 3In the above example, change management activities were separated from the mainstreamproject activities through a series of staff and stakeholder engagement activities. Incontrast, the gold medal example below included carefully orchestrated interventions thatachieved a valuable project task while simultaneously taking people along a journey andbuilding support for the initiative.Case ExampleThe distribution model pilot that I described above was further challenged bycompartmentalised or “bolt on” change management due to a project manager whodidn’t fully understand the value of change management.The change manager was asked to focus on stakeholder consultation only, andwas expected to deliver change management plans and reports, but not invited toparticipate in broader pilot team discussions.This meant that the input from the various stakeholders was not properly factored intothe pilot planning, which was another reason for the expensive failed initial pilot.Gold Medal Case ExampleOne project within a cost reduction program was to introduce a new system for allstaff. The issue the execution team faced was how to select and then introduce thenew system in a way that minimised adverse impact on staff.Together with the sponsor, we appointed a project manager and a change manager,and we worked together seamlessly with technology and the business to deliver thenew system successfully. There was no disruption to business, and the cost savingsreported since are 3 times initial projections.A key success factor was establishing working groups with representation acrossdivisions. Often working groups are merely narrowly-defined, short tenure vendorselection panels. These groups however provided critical insight and advocacy for thechange, while being were integral in screening and selecting solutions and vendors.This means the project achieved a critical project task while simultaneously buildingsupport. By the time the system was introduced, staff were aware and accepting ofthe new solution.Harnessing sponsor supportStrong, visible sponsor leadership from the “top down” is critical to any change program.The Executive sponsor must stay sufficiently involved so that the strategic and commercialintent remains on track, and must also value an integrated program and people perspective.The sponsor also provides advocacy and strategic support for the program.
  4. 4. © Lisa Carlin 2013 • • 0418 115 939 • Page 4Harnessing community energyWhile “top down” leadership is important, “bottom up” support from the community ofemployees and external stakeholders will further accelerate execution. The challenge isto harness the personal leadership of individuals at all levels to create a “groundswell” ofsupport, so that dispersed actions are in sync with your goal. Consider how to engageyour community, so they identify with the project, and feel personally responsible for itssuccess. This is the next level of engagement beyond crowdsourcing of ideas - popularisedthrough more accessible technologies, and social media platforms such as Yammer.Gold Medal Case ExampleOne of the best sponsors I’ve worked with is strategic, commercial and visionary – hewas clear on the future he wanted to create, and engaged an outstanding executionteam to help him deliver. He made useful suggestions to resolve complex issues, andgot involved when needed to advocate on the team’s behalf with other executives.The projects delivered under his sponsorship generated outstanding returns for theorganisation, who also achieved public acknowledgement of their innovation bothwithin and outside their industry.Gold Medal Case ExampleOur core project team to improve customer experience constituted 10 people, butwhen we celebrated our success at the end of the project, our celebration included 120people across the organisation in a variety of roles whose role significantly changed asa result of the project.We introduced a campaign that engaged each critical line manager and their team,and tied the achievement of their personal job deliverables to the project’s success.Each individual involved adjusted the focus of their role significantly in line with ourproject outcome. They were encouraged and motivated to do this for many reasons,including the increased visibility they received in the organisation for being part of theproject.This meant we were able to leverage and accelerate our core team’s effortsconsiderably.AcclimateFinally, as the best athletes know they need to acclimate to any new environment before anevent, a gold medal execution team needs to acclimate into the organisation. They need tointegrate their efforts and focus into the culture, rather than working against the culture.This usually calls for the execution team to immerse themselves into the culture, ensuringthey have adequate involvement and representation within the execution team of those
  5. 5. © Lisa Carlin 2013 • • 0418 115 939 • Page 5Rosabeth Moss-Kanter describe as “change recipients”. It also means the execution team,or at least the program/project manager understands culture and organisational norms,and can explicitly develop a project approach that will work within the culture. At amateurlevel, the change will be blocked entirely. At professional level, some change will occuramidst significant fatigue and frustration. At gold medal level, change will be stronglysupported by a groundswell of advocacy.Coming next… How execution teams can work within, not against, the culture.Lisa Carlin is a strategy execution consultant within the FutureBuildersGroup. She mentors managers, program and project teams to successfullyplan and execute business transformations – accelerating strategic, multi-disciplinary or complex change. She assembles integrated executionteams from within her clients, and from her deep network of experiencedconsulting colleagues. Prior to establishing her own consultancy in 1999,she worked across 3 continents for McKinsey & Co, Accenture and otherglobal consulting firms.Selected capabilities in different execution environmentsProfessional execution Gold medal executionIntegratedcommercialcapabilityBusiness case documented, approvalprocess ticks the boxes. No rigorousanalysis or evaluationRigorously analysed, articulated andevaluated business caseIntegratedchangemanagementcapabilityChange managers develop a separatestream of activities that are not fullyintegrated into the project planChange managers integrally involvedin project planning. Project activitiesare integrated: simultaneously buildingsupport, while also delivering specifictask outcomesHarnessingsponsorinvolvementSponsor is clearly defined and feelsownership. Monitors progress.Participates in regular steeringcommittee meetings to review progress,contribute ideas and make decisions.Same as professional level PLUS:actively drives project forward, makesconstructive suggestions to the team thatadd real value. Injects strong strategicand commercial guidance. Instrumentalin breaking down barriers, actively usespositional power and personal influenceto lobby others for support.HarnessingcommunityenergyConsulting with others in the broaderorganisation/community as part ofthe project plan. Others feel they are“helping out”.Significantly involving others so theyfeel shared ownership and responsibilityfor delivering the project’s objectives.Motivating others to identify with yourshared goal.