Building Strategic Organizations Series



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I still remember meeting with senior leaders of a $300m organization for strategic planning, I asked them, “Do your employees know 1) why they should come to work? 2) What the 1-3 big deals are for this year and next, and 3) how are you doing on your measures of progress? They gave me the answer I hear most often. No.


The numbers on employee engagement by Gallup each year are consistently not good. Generally, about a third of your employees are engaged. About half are not engaged. That leaves about 15% who are actively disengaged. When your people don’t why they should come to work, what the big deals are, and how you are doing, they are less likely to be engaged.


Why does employee engagement matter? Another Gallup study says that strong employee engagement promotes a wide variety of positive outcomes including greater productivity, lower turnover, and fewer quality issues.


Before we look over the five tools of building strategic organizations. Let’s take a few moments to look at our PPO approach and ROI. These two sets of three letters can change your life and work.


As we look at the five levels of strategy, remember, as always, want to take a PPO approach which means that these can be applied to your personal life, professional life, and organizational life.


ROI refers to Return on Investment. Whether it is in your personal life or the largest organization, the goal is to invest less and gain a greater return. Personally and professionally, we want to invest less TEMP resources. TEMP resources are time, energy, money, and people. For example, let’s say you put 10 units of time and energy into a sales project which results in a sale of 20 units. It would be even better if you could invest 8 units of time and energy with a sales result of 30 units. The goal is not to work more. Let me say that again. The goal is not more work. The goal is to work less and accomplish more. Again, this powerful ROI truth can be equally applied in life and work.


When I meet with leaders for strategic planning, I often see a tired group who are coming up short on their goals. I say, “The goal is not more work.” What if we could move ahead on what you care about most and work less. They always are up for that.


Over the next five weeks, we are going to discuss five levels of strategy and strategic clarity. To make this easier to remember, let’s use your hand as a reminder. Look at the palm of your hand with your thumb is in the air and your little finger is toward the floor.


As we look at these five levels of strategy, remember, as always, these can be applied to your personal life, professional life, and organizational life.


Here are the five levels we will be unpacking.


Your thumb is at the highest level and this addresses your MV3 which is your mission, your vision, your values, and your value propositions. This looks at the why of your life, work, and team as well as the picture of your preferred future.


Still looking at your palm, the first finger down from your thumb is your index figure. This refers to your strategic themes. These are your 1-3 priorities or big deals for this year or next. If you want to advance your vision this year, you and your team need to know your priorities or big deals for this year.


Next is your middle finger. These are a balanced set of objectives or strategies for each theme. For example, if you had a theme or priorities of increasing sales, you could have a set of strategies that include:

1. Increase brand awareness.

2. Grow sales team.

3. Provide employee training on sales options

4. Extend social media reach


When you have a balanced set of objectives for each theme, there is a greater likelihood of progress on your big deals.


Your ring figure is for your measures of progress. When there is limited strategic clarity at the upper levels, there is often a lack of clear measures of progress. When employees don’t know how they are doing, there is even less engagement. You don’t need 20 measures. Often 3-5 measures can greatly increase strategic clarity.


Lastly, you have your little figure which represents projects or initiatives. A project is an investment of TEMP resources which again stands for time, energy, money, and people. We are not going to move the needle on our measures of progress without doing something. The goal is to have low TEMP projects that will have a high impact on our important measures. It is here where we are aligning our on-the-ground work and projects with our middle-level strategies and high-level vision.


There you have it. Five levels of strategy represented by the thumb and figures on your hand.


When strategic clarity is high, employee engagement increases.


Some years ago, I did a research project. Each time I met with a senior team, I would ask them about their strategic clarity.


Strategic clarity relates to the five levels mentioned above. It is the answer to these questions:

  1. Do you have clarity on a picture of your preferred future?

  2. Do you know what your big deals are for this year and next?

  3. Do you have some clear strategies to advance each big deal?

  4. Do you know our key measures of progress?

  5. Are you aligning your resources with your strategy?


I would then ask, is your strategic clarity:

  • Great

  • Good

  • Adequate

  • Poor

  • Train Wreck


The most common answers I got from senior team member was adequate to good.


I would then ask about their direct reports. The answers were usually poor to adequate.


Lastly, I would ask about their regular, everyday employee. The answer was usually poor.


If the strategic clarity of your employees is poor, there is a good chance that their engagement is going to be poor as well.


For Next Steps on these topics, take a few minutes to talk with yourself and your team asking these same questions:


  1. Do we have clarity on a picture of our preferred future?

  2. Do we know what our big deals are for this year and next?

  3. Do we have some clear strategies to advance each big deal?

  4. Do we know our key measures of progress?

  5. Are we aligning our resources with our strategy?