Living Your Mission, Vision and Values:

Strategy Deployment for the 21st Century

Michael Couch
President
Michael Couch and Associates Inc.
Pittsburgh, PA

I am working with a second organization (medium-sized and regional, the other was larger and global) that used a very robust Strategic Planning process but then struggled to execute the strategy. Effective change, follow-through and accountability were lacking. I found that my clients were not alone. In a recent survey, senior executives at 197 global companies said their firms achieved only 63% of their strategy’s potential. The executives agreed that strategy execution is more important than strategy development but 66% said they were worse at execution than development.

How can an organization achieve its strategic potential, build the strategy into the DNA of the organization and effectively live the mission, vision and values? To do so, the organization’s leaders need to answer six key Strategy Deployment Questions.

I’ll get to the Six Questions in a moment. First, let’s define “Strategy”. To me, an organization’s strategy is the framework which guides the choices that determine the nature and direction of an organization (a tip of the hat to Tregoe and Zimmerman). A Strategic Plan should describe:

  • How value will be created/how the organization will compete,
  • What results will be meaningful/what is valued, and,
  • What the organization will do and not do (markets and products).

Ultimately, the strategy should shape the behavior of everyone in the organization.

With that definition as a backdrop, let’s get to the Six Questions.

  1. What are your organizations mission-critical processes and roles?

    Strategic Planning should include the hard work and research that defines value – how the organization will compete and create value in the markets in which it decides to play. These value streams can then be translated into the processes needed to deliver value and the jobs that play key roles in the processes. Understanding, creating and sustaining the capability of the processes and the talent in the roles is than an important component of strategy execution.

  2. How do you measure the impact of your Values?

    Unless an organization’s values are measured, they become “pie in the sky” and do not contribute to executing the strategy. Values often get posted on a wall and that’s about as concrete as they get. Measurement allows leadership to know if the strategy is being executed and when corrective action needs to be taken. Here’s an example of how values can translate into concrete measures.

    Value Description Measure
    Profitability Operating a successful company is essential to the future success of our customers, employees suppliers and investors EBITDA
    Customer Passion Our customer’s success is instrumental to our success Market Share
    Key Customer Retention
    Continuous Improvement Acting with a high sense of urgency and encouraging change will give us a competitive edge First Time Through
    On-time Delivery
    Safety Safety is an overriding concern in everything we do TRIR
    % Safe Behavior
    Employee Engagement Hard work, creativity and dedication are the cornerstones to our success Employee Engagement

  3. How is the strategy translated into annual, concrete goals for employees?

    Research by SuccessFactors and the Workforce Intelligence Institute shows that companies that closely aligned goals across their organization exhibit higher levels of financial success. In the Toyota Production System, this is called the “Catch Ball” process. Other companies refer to it as “socializing the strategy” or ‘strategy realization”. Almost every company has a performance appraisal process (which no one likes and which adds little value) which should be as the tool to cascade the strategy to every person in the organization. Software is making this task easier but I’ve seen it done effectively with just spreadsheets. It’s actually more about having rich goal setting discussions and reviews than it is the form.

  4. How does your strategy translate into concrete competencies that are critical to achieving the strategy?

    Competencies are the knowledge, skills and abilities reflected in behaviors that are related to success in the organization. Different strategies require organizations with different capabilities. To deploy a given strategy, the behaviors critical to success must be defined at every level of the company. They can also be linked directly to the Values. The Performance Management process helps people understand “what” they should do. The competencies describe “how” it should be accomplished to create greatest impact on the success of the firm.

  5. What is the link between your business strategy and your talent strategy?

    For many successful companies, the link between the business strategy and the talent strategy is the competencies outlined in Question 4. Once the competencies are defined, they can then be used in talent planning, acquisition, development and even rewards. In that way, the talent strategy can become a driver of the business strategy – getting the right people in the right roles doing the right things at the right cost.

  6. Does your organization have the capability to effectively deploy the strategy?

    Talent assessment (or what some firms call Top Grading Talent) is an essential part of assuring that strategy can be deployed. I call it creating a strategy-capable organization. Armed with knowledge of mission-critical roles and strategic competencies, it is possible to build an overall picture of the organization’s ability to execute. In addition, it becomes clear where changes are needed, where development can make a difference and where selection will have the biggest payoff. Progress can be tracked and the capability assessment can be updated as the strategy unfolds.