In our complex and busy world, a lot of focus is put on defining the strategies. Most experts though agree that the quality of the execution of these strategies is even more important than the quality of the strategy itself. When it comes to advice on how to drive execution, surprisingly few insights are available.
In my eyes, two major goals need to be achieved, first securing commitment, and second securing the action. Both of these are fairly straight-forward if you have the luxury of a fully focused team, like a scrum team or a consultant team. More often than not though the reality is different: people spread their efforts between several initiatives. Key stakeholders stretch their attention across multiple topics and tasks. Overload, distraction, and things falling through the cracks happen to the majority of team members and initiatives, unless key individuals are excelling in self-management.
Having managed multiple, large scale programs, I found a few tricks that helped me align and focus my team members.
To get alignment and commitment, my favorite concept is co-creation: getting people involved in designing the solution. Even a centrally defined concept can benefit from a critical assessment of how this can best be applied to a specific unit or geography. With the local team providing validation and fine-tuning of the solution, you get deep understanding, mobilization and commitment almost as a side effect – there are your next change agents.
For a broader audience, emotional selling is key: every marketer knows that facts are boring. Making people understand the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) on an emotional level gets people going.
Much harder than to get initial commitment is to maintain this commitment and focus. Setting the right empowerment and accountability is a prerequisite. Where feasible, this should be coupled with an aligned capacity expectation – what % of time to spend on this initiative, and which other activities to take it from. Naturally this needs to be backed-up by adjusting personal goals and incentives.
Creating transparency will help maintain momentum: by setting up processes to let people shine if they perform, or make their failure public, focus can be maintained. This goes well beyond status tracking and steering team meetings. During design, I had good experiences with regular shark-tank-type meetings where individual teams presented their concepts to collect feedback and get a sign-off from the leadership. For multiple roll-outs across units or geographies, stage-gate-like reviews work well, where a set of deliverables need to be demonstrated.
Getting Things Done
Strategy execution requires more than just project and program management mechanics. Mastering the art of transformation management can surely make a difference. With more than 20 years of experience consulting the life sciences industries, and a focus on commercial transformation and complex change initiatives, the author Germar Betz, a partner in the Healthcare Shapers network form the very beginning, is happy to share his experiences in getting things done.
For further reading:
- Commitment Curve, well explained in https://resiliencealliance.com/change-management-classics-commitment/
- More on co-creation from HBR at https://hbr.org/2010/10/building-the-co-creative-enterprise
- Stage gate process elaborated on https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313967359_The_Stage-GateR_Product_Innovation_System_from_Idea_to_Launch