Strategy Execution

High Performance = Strategy Execution

In the year 2000, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton wrote “The Knowing-Doing Gap”, yet we still face most of the challenges they describe! John Kotter’s 8-step Change Management process has been with us since 1995, yet McKinsey’s research (MQ, May 2008) found the amount of successful change initiatives unchanged…at 30% effectiveness! We may know what needs to be done…but we are not, in the main, doing it. MBA students are often encouraged to strategise, not implement; to lead others, not themselves. It is by understanding execution that we become more strategic, combining “people” and “operational” elements through attention to results.

Where is the gap between what we know we should do, yet aren’t doing, or between our actions and desired outcomes? “Off-the-shelf” training and unfocused interventions cannot help us with these issues, since they do not seek the source of our gaps nor provide strategic, accountable follow-up. A definitive formula for Performance is “potential minus interference” (Gallwey, 1976) and the inner and outer interference needs to be managed, in order to master our various roles.

Focused People helps individuals to truly contribute within their organisational context and to become critical thinkers in their various roles. We diagnose where the gaps are between strategy and implementation – personally, interpersonally and contextually and equip team members to use coaching expertise to deepen client relationships – sustainably.

Beyond Traditional Sales and Performance Management

Creativity, problem-solving and relationship-building cannot be outsourced to machines. Likewise, values and the culture they create define team-working through leadership behaviour and business interfaces. Customer-facing teams need to be excellent at establishing trust, demonstrating authenticity and being able to apply coaching skills to expand the scope of work via curiosity and interest in the customer. Customer-facing teams -and executives – need to be equipped to get more out of their relationships, so that everyone benefits.

Team members need to enhance rapport, develop understanding, facilitate client engagement and gain buy-in. Equipping them with a modern, collaborative approach enables staff to listen well, empathise better, draw out actual needs (versus perceived needs) and build trust. If ethical persuasion, conflict resolution and core negotiation skills are added into the mix, both external and internal stakeholder relationships are enhanced, along with accountability and engagement.

Robust Feedback and Collaboration

Many organisations, for example GE and Adobe, have “rebooted” performance appraisals – ratings, rankings and annual reviews! It may seem strange, since GE pioneered many of the leading practices in this domain, but what these agile businesses are doing¹ is moving towards:

  1. more “fluid”, quickly adaptable objectives
  2. frequent “feedback discussions” (replacing six or 12-monthly feedback)
  3. future-focussed developmental coaching (as opposed to retrospective rating and ranking) and
  4. emphasising collaboration rather than individualism.

This is, in essence, a non-Western approach: “collectivism” is core to Eastern cultures and pivotal to African ubuntu. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” is the isiZulu phase for this – a person is fully human (and finds meaning)  because of other people. Your organisation needs buy-in, not just compliance; innovation, not just consistency. Are your teams able to be open with each other and fully trust each other? Are they accountable, committed and achieving the desired results? Most of us could do better than we currently are. Our clients require a partner, not a vendor; a trusted ally and advisor, not a salesperson. Service now happens at the speed of the “Internet of Things” – or the “speed of trust”, as Stephen Covey famous wrote. No longer will clients be restricted to office hours or happy to wait three days for a response. They will tweet their dissatisfaction to the universe within 3 hours instead.

Customers and Employees need knowledgeable, trusted partners to help them surge ahead – someone who takes a keen interest in understanding their business operations and needs. Focused People would like to help you be that partner, sustainably.


¹ Ewenstein, Hancock, & Komm, Ahead of the curve: The future of performance management, McKinsey Quarterly, May 2016.