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Are your people polishing strategy, instead of implementing it?

In our organisation people have big brains – and that can be a problem!

Listening to a Chief Executive talk to her the team about the strategy, I was struck by a phrase she used multiple times in only 40 minutes.  She made four references to the organisation having brain power, big brains, and being brainy. This seemed an unusual thing to say.

Now we are not talking heavy science, deep technology, innovative research here.  Sure the organisation needed, and had, many bright, intelligent, smart people.  Many were graduates and PhDs.  Many were national and even international experts. So, why was she saying this?

I asked her, “With so many bright brainy people in the organisation, why have previous change programmes not always been as successful as one might like?”  (I was actually holding back as the organisation had a track record of poorly delivering systems, but it was not helpful to expose it here.)

Big brains like tinkering, improving and polishing strategy

The answer was insightful. “We tend to decide on something and then tinker with it to improve it even more. Everyone likes to have a say and adapt the approach to their piece of the world. In other words, we need to stop using expertise to polish and tinker. Rather we need to apply our brains to implementation and results, rather than trying to get the perfect process”.

Put bluntly, stop polishing strategy: start implementing strategy.

Using the car analogy.  Are you simply polishing it?  Or are you actually driving it so you enjoy it and experiencing how it works mechanically.  Is it a work of art or functional? You decide.

Polishing strategy or implementing it?

Are you polishing your strategy or implementing it?

We need to apply our brain power to implementation and results

She was making a very clear statement to her team. She was complementing them on their expertise and brain power, yet at the same time saying, “Make sure you do not mis-apply your brain power”. We want change. We want improvement. We want results.  Apply your brain power the right way.

Are you using your organisation’s brain power the right way

How many other organisations use their brain power in the wrong way? It is not that they are stupid – they certainly were not.

Rather they mis-apply their intelligence. Now that really is a waste.

As Chief Executives and Leaders, you have to communicate the change in behaviour that you want.  You have to overcome the behaviours that have been learnt over time and become deeply embedded. The DELBS (Deeply Embedded Learnt Behaviours).  You have to model and live that behaviour yourself.

What is important is that you don’t let your strategy be eaten by your culture.  In chapters four and five of Communicating Strategy I explain how change happens and the need for an explicit strategy for behavioural and cultural change.   To avoid your strategy being eaten by your culture, you need an explicit strategy for behavioural change.  Have a look at these examples of behavioural change strategies from our work.