25 January 2006

In implementation lies your success

The test of a strategy is in its implementation. This may be a big blow to the egos of those who pride themselves as strategists, but it’s not enough to design a great strategy. You have to implement it and evaluate its results. In managing change, this holds the key to your success.

Strategy alone does not bring in change – or motivate it. Organisations not only need to identify the right new strategy, but have to implement it correctly so it reaches all levels of the organisation. To survive, and thrive, strategy alone is not enough. To achieve any major transformation in your organisation, you need to look inside.

The usual “looking inside” that accompanies new strategies amounts to re-organisation. And, in many cases, laying off people. Heads roll, sadly, mostly in the lower rungs of the corporate ladder. In an effort to re-organise, a top-of-line advertising agency I know, laid off several staff from their Studio (who were invaluable to the Creative Department), while promoting many of their senior executives to new positions. That’s right, CEOs and senior managers who like to re-organise prefer to keep their positions intact while cleaning up the rest of the organisation.

Don’t get me wrong. Implementing change does necessitate re-organisation, but it doesn’t have to be at the cost of someone’s job. You can energise your team to participate in the change initiative by making them understand how their work contributes to the organisation’s success and how their efforts can determine where the organisation will be in the future. By bringing your team face to face with the need to change and explaining the external pressures the organisation is facing at present. By defining the new strategies and asking for your team’s support in implementing them.

You can break the strategies into smaller parts and find team members who are enthusiastic enough to champion these mini-strategies. People who can own and drive the change – serve as role models. These could be department or divisional heads who have influence because of their positions or designations. Or others, who are leaders not because of their positions, but because they have the ability to connect with people and influence them. Encourage these individuals and support them to ensure their efforts don’t stray from the overall change strategy.

You can support the change with new tools and systems. But don’t be in a rush to implement them. Start on the premise that your team will be unfamiliar to these new technologies and systems, and may resist them. Communicate clearly how these new tools and systems will work and benefit each group or individual team member… as well as the entire organisation. Design training programmes to familiarise your team and ease the progress of implementation.

You can introduce incentives to encourage your team’s progress or on the positive results they bring in. One of the main reasons for successfully implementing change in a large Indian corporation was instituting awards to recognise change-agents, serving them as role models for others to follow. Another, an IT company, carried out a “listening exercise” and offered incentives for new ways of implementing the desired change.

Most importantly, contrary to felling heads during the change process, you can treat your team with dignity and respect. Manage their feelings. Help them deal with their emotional reactions to change and the new environment. You just can’t go wrong with this.

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