The Magic Pill for Executing Business Strategy

My mother was overweight all of her life. She was, for the most part, a determined woman, but she couldn’t make herself eat right and exercise. However, that didn’t stop her from buying numerous pieces of exercise equipment (or trying to tell me how to eat).

There was the treadmill, the NordicTrack® ski machine, some small pink weights (this was the 1960s), a stationary bike and my favorite, the vibrating machine that jiggled your buns. I guess the theory was if you stood there long enough, you’d get thin, though the time required might also give you a closed head injury.

What she didn’t quite get is that any one of these machines (except the bun jiggler) would’ve done the job as would her jogging shoes (yes, she had lots of those too) and some pushups and situps. However, she wanted the magic pill — pain-, time- and  sweat-free while eating whatever she chose to!

Like someone committed to losing weight, once management teams or visionary founders/CEOs identify where they want to go (vision) and roughly what they need to do to get there (business strategy), the question is how do they do it?

Young firms often don’t have a lot of structure and process (what I like to call an “operating system”) and need to start by building the monkey bars to swing from.

More established firms (those with lots of exercise equipment in the basement already) have less need to start building from scratch and more need to look for enhancements and revisions to their current operating system.

Neither one needs to look for the perfect piece of exercise equipment, yet that’s what they often want to do. I don’t blame them any more than I blame my mother for searching for the easy solution that would allow her to eat brownies, skip exercise and get thin.

When members of an established firm tell me they don’t have the capacity to execute their new business strategy, what I most often observe (unless they’ve taken a dramatic turn that doesn’t leverage their current strengths, in which case I would ask why) is that they have a weak “operating system.” They can’t get stuff done!

Will a piece of software correct this? No. Will a new “program management office” solve the problem? No.

What will allow them to execute their strategy? Two things: (1) management that understands accountability (planning, commitment, tracking and correction) and (2) building an effective (not perfect!) operating system that allows this to happen. It does not make it happen; it allows for it!

Quit looking for the perfect solution to allow you to execute your strategy, and start looking at the behavior in your company (starting with yourself, if you’re the CEO) and the infrastructure you’ve built to enable it. You’ll grow long in the tooth waiting for the perfect solution.

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