Please Don’t — A Great Tactic for Successful Strategy

By Mike Figliuolo

High-falootin’ strategery sounds awesome. Unfortunately, the best strategic plan in the world can come crashing down if you don’t have the right tactics in place to support it. And these tactics have to occur on a daily basis.

This is where, as a manager, you’re probably missing the boat. I know your intentions are good, but your dysfunctional behaviors are the root of strategic destruction (how’s that for being provocative?).

I’ve mentioned before that strategy is about saying “no” and I’m unwavering on that point. The organization has to know where it’s going and pursue a balanced set of initiatives to get there. It has to be a mix of building your core business so it can spin off the cash required to invest in new ventures. It’s about hitting the sweet spot of balancing between growing the core and/or expanding beyond it.

Let’s assume you’re already doing those things. Here’s where you’re screwing up, though: Your daily behaviors and coaching to your associates are causing mission creep and the dilution of your efforts. Don’t worry though — it’s pretty easy to diagnose and fix.

I read a great article about Home Depot the other day. Back in the Nardelli days, there was an internal slogan hung up in every store. It read, “IMPROVE EVERYTHING WE TOUCH.” After Nardelli’s ouster, Frank Blake took over as CEO. In a pointed message to his management team he said “You know that sign that says IMPROVE EVERYTHING WE TOUCH? Please don’t.”

It was a strong message. Blake understood that the tactical daily impact of associates trying to improve every aspect of the business was dilutive to more strategic efforts. It led to managers running around trying to manage more than 30 metrics on a daily basis. I don’t know about you, but if I have more metrics than I have fingers, I’m in a bad place.

Look at the daily messages you send to your associates. Look at your metrics. Are they aligned with your higher strategic focus? If not, whack it. Stop coaching your team to be incredibly operationally efficient if your strategy is to deliver over-the-top customer service — because those ideas are in conflict. If your strategy is to be the most efficient operators in the world, pushing your employees to smile and greet every customer is at odds with that. I know these are extreme examples, but you get the point.

Take a moment to diagnose the messages you send to your team. Are those messages and metrics consistent with your strategy? If not, you’re causing confusion and dilution of effort. Ultimately that leads to a strategy where you stand for everything and do nothing particularly well.

Mike Figliuolo is the author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.” He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC — a leadership development firm. An honor graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog, read the full original post here.
Originally published: Oct 13, 2011

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