Thursday, October 01, 2020

Strategic plan or bureaucratic exercise

It has become de rigueur for corporate strategic plans to include a list of “mission-critical” initiatives that promise to transform the business, “disrupt” their industry, and drive “world-class performance” through innovation.

Almost none of these “critical initiatives” ever really come to fruition.

I think this helps explain why:

Stars Come Out in a Crisis; Don’t Let Them Fade

Naturally, great performers are who you want when launching any business-critical assignment. Yet, how many frustrated managers have identified a rock star to lead a critical strategic initiative only to struggle to break them free from the less essential role they already occupy?

One common workaround is to position the new role as a great “step up” opportunity that should only require 10% of the star’s time. Excited about the work and committed to getting results, the star and his or her team make great progress at first. But as time passes, progress slows, and energy and focus start to wane. Employees, piled with work, struggle to keep up and even burn out.

What happened?

Every company has to simultaneously run its business and change its business. But when it comes to human capital, those “change the business” growth projects more often than not are denied the resources they need. Ten percent of the time of a star employee who already has an important “run the business” job is not going to cut it. When push comes to shove, “running the business” always feels more urgent. No surprise then that these “change the business” efforts rarely do.

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