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“We don’t have time to learn something new.”
“I’m slammed right now.”
These are statements I hear all-to-often in my line of work. As a strategic planner, I use technology to help disseminate plan goals and objectives throughout my clients’ organizations. When I’m called in to help a team communicate and achieve their visions, the same issue usually presents itself: the company has taken time to form a strategy but hasn’t made time to implement it.
This doesn’t come as a shock; 59% to 67% of leaders say they struggle to execute their strategic goals. What is surprising, though, is the number of organizations that are reluctant to use technology to help them achieve these goals.
So How Does Technology Help Strategy Execution?
With digital transformation ever-present in professional operational systems and personal apps, it makes sense that cloud-based SaaS platforms are emerging to help address roadblocks in strategy execution. A digital solution can improve many of the barriers companies cite, including poor communication, management reluctance, and resistance to change.
I suspect that many professionals are tired of complicated rollouts and time-consuming implementations, and they equate any new digital solution with these types of experiences.
But then I think back to when I purchased my first smartphone. At the time I thought, “Why use a GPS app when I am comfortable with printed directions from MapQuest?” Now, of course, that sounds ridiculous. Why would I continue to spend time, energy, and resources printing out directions when it only took a few flustered moments to learn a new way of navigating?
The same goes for shifting to streamlined, innovative strategy execution.
Shifting in a New Direction
A critical task in change is working with leadership to draw a parallel between a new direction and new behavior. Intellectually, it is not a leap. Behaviorally, it is much more of a challenge.
In general terms, think about an organization that wants to grow or take a new direction, but does not want to change its core responses to issues, opportunities, and external pressures. What must change is the approach to internal processes or external marketplace needs. In order to affect a shift, leadership must model the behavior and then insist that others model it as well.
To be more specific, consider the case of Seimens. Looking to re-energize their mission, the company knew that culture was pivotal in making that change. CEO Barbara Humpton recognized that people have a hard time changing their daily behavior, and noted that, “The biggest obstacle to any transformation is literally just the way we’ve always done things.”
One of those changes that can prove uncomfortable is rethinking daily priorities. For many people, it is more satisfying to put out fires. To them, urgency often wins out over importance. There is a feeling of success if a crisis is averted or a problem doesn’t grow larger. But if you only fight fires and don’t think about how to avert a fire in the first place, your organization will always be on the defensive. You won’t be able to shape your future in ways that are advantageous to you.
Small, Intentional Steps Lead to Big Changes
How can you begin to shift your thinking and make some smaller but pivotal changes that affect not only your openness to new approaches, but adoption of different processes and ways of doing everyday work?
Here are a few starting ideas and questions to consider:
- Lay all of your cards on the table and consider what you have to lose. What will happen if you do not change and why? Does that future picture scare you enough to motivate change? If it does not, consider the cost of not changing.
- Find out what your personal resistance is to changing how you approach your day-to-day work. Are you motivated by ‘checking off a to-do list’? Do you need to accomplish something? Or are you comfortable with advancing a new idea or a new process? Is that too nebulous an achievement for the day or is it good enough to feel as though you’ve accomplished something?
- Look at how you and your team spend your time. Do you allow any regular time for big thinking? There are strategists who say if you are not looking at the future and envisioning how your organization will shape and respond to it, you risk becoming obsolete. Make sure you take time to think about what the next big thing will be and how it will impact your product/service/way you do business. What will you need to do to ensure your organization can stay healthy and grow?
- Finally, what tools do you need to make sure you can continue to achieve your set goals? How can you integrate those tools in your daily work with yourself and others? Identify what specific benefits these tools can bring and leverage that with your teams.
My best advice: don’t make all your changes at once. Make small changes initially.
When you begin, take an extra 15 minutes out of your day to envision what will be different and how you will respond.
Then take half an hour.
Then take another 15 minutes. Determine specific actions you can take to move closer to your vision. Set your organization on a course to move forward to achieve these actions.
I promise that once you accomplish one or two of your initial goals, the momentum will build. Don’t forget to use any and all tools at your disposal to ensure your team remains connected and can progress with you.