Remember that strategic plan you spent the last two quarters working on? The one that you invested time and effort doing market research, analyzing financial performance, and getting buy-in from your managers and employees. Yes, that plan.
Want to know the secret to achieving the lofty goals you chose?
Commit to making 2023 the year that you get really good at what your company does throughout your business.
In my experience, the reasons business strategies fail are weak commitment to the plan, misaligned employee behaviors, and lack of support from operating, management, and organizational systems. Don’t relegate your strategic plan to an annual exercise that gets left on a shelf.
A strategic plan is an action plan. It’s a roadmap for corporate decision making. It prioritizes investments in people and technology to deliver more value to customers.
Your strategy is only as good as your ability to implement it. It takes discipline to say no to all the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that will come to the business this year. A successful strategy requires operational readiness and the willingness to take a critical look at all business functions and what they do to support the strategy.
Over the past ten years, McKinsey & Company has been developing the Operational Excellence Index, an assessment of operational maturity for it Manufacturing practice. The performance assessment criteria they developed can be easily applied to other businesses, including engineering and construction. The four criteria are summarized below.
- How well is an employee’s work connected to the company’s overall purpose, strategy, and vision?
- How well are teams set up to deliver on those aspirations?
- How well is the company set up to build the skills of its employees?
- Are employees continuously improving in their jobs?
Several years ago, I had a client who was absolutely certain that her operations team was first-rate. She described them as a well-oiled machine that worked together for so long, they could finish each other’s sentences. The real issue was sales. “Bring me the work and we will get it done.”
By the end of the first quarter, cracks were beginning to appear. The sales team, laser-focused on winnable opportunities, exceeded expectations. However, there weren’t enough project managers to support the work and new hires were left alone to navigate their way through the undocumented “way we do things around here.” Employees were unfamiliar with new client requirements and balked at creating new report templates and bid forms clients demanded.
Six months in and accounting and payroll were overwhelmed with additional work. Invoicing and payroll errors became more common, and receivables began to grow. Since sales had remained flat for several years, there was no confidence that they would increase. Therefore, there were no contingency plans for temporary or permanent new hires. Although the company had invested in leading project management and accounting software, there was no investment in training and employees were unable to improve their efficiencies.
The strain was unbearable. Several long-time employees resigned causing even more gaps in project delivery. Eventually, the business owner decided to assess her operation with a more discerning eye.
It’s a great time to take a step back and see what you can do to help your company grow and prosper. We tend to learn more from our failures than our successes, so consider the learning opportunity before you and take the next best step toward your goal.
Call upon the same focus and determination that propelled you to start your own business in the first place. It’s easy for the resourcefulness, creativity, and innovative thinking that inspired your company to get lost in the day-to-day.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Surround yourself with trusted advisors who can help you uncover the blind spots we all have when it comes to our own business. If you need some help with the next steps, let’s talk. Together we will find the issues and fix them.