blog overview
Goal Setting
Frans Riemersma, 30 Jun '17

Strategy Execution 101 - Three Simple Steps

Create a visual strategy in three simple steps. Learn how to set SMART goals, group them into a strategy, and monitor the strategy and its goals on a weekly basis.

88% of managers say that successfully delivering strategic results is very important if not essential for competitiveness. All good, but why do very few companies actually reach the bulk of the goals they pursue? Only 2% of leaders are confident that they will achieve 80-100% of their strategy’s objectives!

What’s the problem? Strategy Execution. Through numerous interactions with managers we learned that reaching strategic goals is all about a good execution.

Strategic planning is useless without flawless strategy execution. You’ve probably experienced that more than once yourself. You need to create dependable structures to make sure everything you do contributes to strategy year-round.

4 key factors for successful strategy execution

Research shows that high-performing companies do four things in a consistent way.

  1. Communicate strategy internally (source)
  2. Translate strategy into daily tasks (source)
  3. Review tasks completion daily (source)
  4. Review strategic goals weekly (source)

Great. Now we know what the key success factors are for strategy execution. Let’s apply them and get started. Hold on, but how exactly?

Have a look on the Internet. There aren’t many strategy execution manuals out there. So, we’ve lined up 4 simple routines to create that all-important strategy execution consistency.

To stay relevant in a changing environment, start using Agile Strategy Execution. You can get rid of endless meetings, spreadsheet-hell and micro management, while keeping the assurance that your daily activities bring you closer to achieving strategy.

Your team will be more focused and more engaged. They’ll produce more predictable outcomes, and they will achieve more goals.

What’s not to love?

3 simple routines to implement Strategy Execution 101 

  1. Sprint Zero – draft your strategy
  2. Sprint One – select your goals
  3. Weekly Speed Update – execute your goals.

To get started you need two strategy sessions: Sprint Zero and Sprint One. In Sprint Zero you draft your strategic goals. In Sprint One you select the first goals to work on and make them SMART. Then, on a weekly basis, you execute, update and monitor the goals.

Strategy Execution does not get easier than this.

1. Sprint Zero - draft your strategy

Do a couple of one-hour workshops with your team. All you need is a pile of Post-Its and a marker.

Create a simple, visual strategy agreed upon with your team. In essence, a strategy is nothing else than a group of goals contributing to the overall goal. That is what we call a Goal tree.

Goal tree benefits 

  • Visualize how individual goals contribute to the big strategic goal
  • Bring logic to your strategy and delegates mandates
  • Show every individual what they can do to achieve goals and grow the business

Your strategy is never finished. You have to update it periodically to keep it relevant in a changing environment.

A typical strategy, or goal tree, consists of approximately 3 layers.

  1. First level goal – your Big Hairy Audacious Goal
  2. Second level goals – Team leads goals
  3. Third level goals – Team goals

Ready? Here we go.

First level goal

Formulate the dream in an enticing way. This is your main strategic objective. The Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Only add the goal title. Use ballpark figures for quick guidance. Leave the detailed mathematics out. They will not bring you more strategic control and slow you down.

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To define your first compelling goal you’ll need at least 5 revisions. Make your BHAG good, not great.

Second level goals

While others are busy defining the first level goal more precisely, get your team together to draft second level goals collaboratively.

  • Add titles of goals that contribute to the BHAG.
  • Normally the second level is organized by
    • Segments
    • Business Unit
    • Customer stage
    • Product groups
  • Assign owners to the goals.
    • Typically second level goals are each owned by different team-leads and their corresponding budgets. Make them own their part of the success.

Don’t strive for perfection. Every new goal will make the previous goals better. We call this process strategic hardening. You will notice that the conversations are extremely insightful.

On the one hand the goals are handshakes between management levels. On the other hand, goals are hypotheses. Some goals will be more experimental than others, when breaking new grounds. You’ll know exactly where the risks in your strategy lie. No surprises anymore.

Your team leads might want to repeat this process with their team members. Now you have a strategy stripped from noise and prepared for success. This relieves your team of 40% clutter. This makes the Sprint Zero session is the most valuable one of your entire year.

Remember, over time it will get better and better. Practice makes perfect.

Want to speed things up? Here is a One Day workshop agenda for you.

2. Sprint One – Select your goals

Do a one-hour workshop with your team.

  • Select goals you want to start executing today, typically the low hanging fruit.
  • If you decide to start executing a goal, then set the goal to ‘active’.
  • Don’t work on too many goals at the same time. Stay realistic. Typically each goal owner works on 2-3 goals in parallel.
  • For all active goals, complete the Goal Wizard.
  • Decide on how you’ll measure progress. Look for a suitable metric in the KPI library. Then, define how you will achieve the KPI.
  • Use the tasks section to define your deliverable for this week only. 

Start executing your strategy!

3. Weekly Speed Update – Execute your goals

Preparing for your first strategy execution meeting. Use your goal tree to guide your weekly strategy meeting. Meetings don’t have to be sluggish and boring.

Your new strategy meeting will be more effective and will take less time than you ever thought was possible. Here’s how you do it.

Strategy meeting rules

  • Meet every week on a fixed day and time
  • Allow everyone to speak for 3 minutes
  • Each person highlights successes, next week’s tasks and blockers
  • Don’t interrupt. Help out after the meeting
  • Show the top priority goals on a screen during the meeting
  • Commit to tasks in the meeting.

This is how you make sure you execute your daily tasks in line with the strategy.

Strategy meeting tips

  • To keep your strategy meetings short and effective, make subsets of goals. You can group goals in what we call a ‘collection’.
  • Group goals into a collection. Then use the collections to create an infographic.
  • Every Thursday the team will be notified by email to update their goals. Team members just open the goal and ‘update’ the actual results.
  • The team receives the infographic every Friday by email showing the latest results.

Ready to get started?

Getting your team to adopt the four strategy execution key success factors listed above is easier than you think. Just implement the three agile strategy routines.

It’s time to execute strategy flawlessly. You now know how to do just that.

  • Start with Sprint Zero. Draft a general but exciting BHAG.
  • Move on to Sprint One. Decide how to execute goals in more detail.
  • You need to start holding a weekly meeting to discuss strategic progress.

Want a goal tree online instead of Post-its, then set up your first ‘Tree’.

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