Many business owners and leaders have a vision for where they believe the business could be in the years ahead, but how many translate this vision into reality.
Yet, as leadership studies pioneer Warren Bennis said, isn’t this what real leadership is all about?
The disturbing fact is that up to 90% of organisations don’t execute their strategies successfully, according to David Norton & Robert Kaplan in their book, ‘The Balanced Scorecard’ – in other words, the leadership fails to translate vision into reality.
So, why is it that so few leaders apparently fail in this critical area, and how can leaders ensure they do successfully move from vision to reality?
The first point of failure is often communication – or rather a lack of it. The CEO, and even the leadership team as a whole, might have the vision clear in their minds, but unless everyone in the business understands what this vision is, and how it’s planned to be achieved, the vision will remain just that.
Of course, having a grand vision and letting everyone know what this is won’t work unless the strategies are developed to work towards this, and the goals are made manageable. A big goal is great, but in isolation it can just seem frightening. So, set your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – every business needs one – but then break it down into the steps you plan to take to achieve this. For example, if your BHAG is a 5-year vision, break it down into year-long steps, and then break the 1st year down into quarterly goals.
By this point is should be clear whether or not your vision is achievable. If the goals you’re having to set to build to your BHAG look unattainable, you would need to revise your vision. Perhaps it’s too big, too fast or there could be something else that is getting in the way. Revise the appropriate parameters and break the goals down once more until you have a set that looks achievable. The reason many companies fail to achieve their goals is they’re unrealistic in the first place – undertaking this planning process will ensure your vision is achievable.
Now, take your current quarter and the one following and give them monthly goals, and take your current quarter’s monthly goals and set weekly targets for these. This will be an iterative process, with weekly, monthly, quarterly targets being set and updated as you move through the years. And, of course, the targets are not simply financial, although these will almost certainly form a significant part of the whole. They will cover all manner of items, depending on the job roles of the various team members, remembering only that they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound).
And this accountability is key. There’s little point in assigning targets if people don’t feel a real sense of accountability for them, for wanting to achieve them and needing to explain when they miss. And this culture of accountability is found to be lacking in companies that cannot execute successfully.
Encourage your team to set themselves daily priorities – up to 3 tasks they will complete that day – the progress of which they will review each day. These tasks lead them to their personal weekly target in the OKR framework. Consider short (15-30 minute) weekly meetings at a department or team level where the weekly progress and achievement of goals is reviewed and accountability is called out.
As you get used to the system, you’ll no doubt find you have to reset goals from time to time, but this need will diminish with experience. The important thing is to keep moving forward, always – “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress” in the words of Seth Godin.
And remember, too, that an accountability culture is led from the top. The team must hold the CEO accountable for the actions to which she/he has committed. Where you have the weekly meetings described above, the CEO will also have committed to certain actions and goals and will report on these in the meeting.
By taking your vision and defining how you’re going to achieve it with identifiable and manageable steps, communicating this clearly and setting up a culture of accountability throughout the business to achieve these steps, with consistent feedback on progress you can lead your company to achieve your goals – translating that vision into reality.
And remember, as Confucius said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”
Following a career spanning >50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.
If you’d like to discuss your vision, company culture, board, business strategy, trends, goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.
I’d be delighted to talk with you.
And if you’d like to learn more, these related posts might be of interest:
- “Doing Things is Not the Same as Getting Things Done” – Jared Silver
- What CEOs Need to Succeed in Today’s Changing World
- 7 Biggest CEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- “Leading isn’t a position; it’s an action.” – Adam Contos
- “Excellence is Not a Skill. It is an Attitude.” – Ralph Marston
- Are You Running Your Business or Leading It?
- The Power of Accountable Leadership
- OKR – Measuring What Matters
- “Accountability closes the gap between intention and results.” – Sandra Gallagher
- The Power of Accountability in Business Success
You might also find this article from Harvard Business Review to be of interest: 4 Common Reasons Strategies Fail
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