3 Ways to Turn Strategy into Reality

Your organization is like a machine, with many moving parts hopefully working toward a single goal. You have to understand each component if you want to keep the machine running smoothly.

If you followed my tips for a successful strategy session, you’ve managed to wrangle your team’s best ideas into a strategy. But effective strategy requires consistent implementation at every level of the organization. Think of it as cogs in a wheel that must fit together perfectly to be effective.

Here’s a quick guide to ensure you – and the members of your team – are acquainted with all the moving parts and are helping move the organization toward its goals.

1. Align Incentives. What happens if you give a candy bar to a child to bribe them into being quiet? For a few minutes, the trick might work – until the sugar kicks in! Be sure to incentivize the behavior that you want. So, if you are a low-cost operator, consider rewarding employees to design and implement cost-cutting measures in their departments as opposed to developing the most differentiated product on the market.

2. Align Each Person’s Skills. Don’t underestimate how important it is to put the right people in the right jobs. In the early days of IBM and its mechanical tabulating machines, Thomas Watson Jr. recognized that the mechanical engineers making up the bulk of their research and development department would not be the ones creating the next wave of innovation. He replaced those mechanical engineers with electrical engineers, and within the next decade IBM had 75 percent of the market share in the electronic computer industry. Had Watson stuck with the status quo, IBM would have been left behind.

3. Establish the Decision Maker. I once consulted for a ballet company whose creative director wanted to build the quality of the troupe, while the managing director wanted to increase the size of the troupe. The problem was, neither had the authority to make the ultimate decision. You can imagine how their visions collided when each new, inexperienced student entered the studio. Who gets the deciding vote in your company? Better think this through – and make it consistent with the organization’s strategy - or conflict is inevitable, and implementation of vision will fail.

In-depth knowledge of your organization and its needs is the first step to running it more smoothly. If you invest time to collect that knowledge and align the cogs, you’ll see major returns down the road.