Just one critical implementation issue will ruin the most beautiful, perfect strategy.
I’d like to talk about those types of implementation issues. In my mind, there are only three: insufficient buy-in from people; failure to achieve brilliant execution; and lack of a pivot when new information points to the strategy being wrong.
Even if you are not in the strategist’s seat, in any project or initiative you are heading up, make sure you don’t have blinders on these three critical implementation areas. Let’s take them one by one.
Implementation issue 1. Lack of buy-in from people.
It doesn’t matter how sound your rationale is. It doesn’t matter that you’ve explained things at least three times to give everyone the opportunity to grasp the strategy. Not does it matter that the strategy is simple and elegant. It doesn’t even matter that you asked for feedback early and often.
Getting buy-in is not a tactical process. There is nothing you can “do” from a checklist standpoint that will translate into a magic bullet for buy-in.
What everyone wants is to feel like they are being heard. They want you to demonstrate that you understand – and appreciate – their opinion, perspective, concerns, even if the train is leaving the station.
This implementation issue might seem counterintuitive. If the strategy is sound, why wouldn’t people get on board? But humans are not rational beings. Emotions drive the vast majority of our decisions and plans, including the ones that should work out beautifully on paper.
Implementation issue 2. Lack of brilliant execution.
Executing well on something is so tough because it requires sustained effort over time, and when things do start to falter, those lags, errors and missteps can often be masked. The masking occurs with decent yet misguided intentions – we’ll catch up in the next round, that’s minor and something we can come back to fix later, Johnny can pick up the slack in the meantime – and so on.
More often than not, you don’t catch up, you don’t get to it later, and Johnny can’t pick up the slack. At the very least, it’s extremely hard to do because the sustained effort required in execution often means you don’t have a lot of leeway to correct a bunch of mistakes and oversights.
Implementation issue 3. Lack of a pivot when it’s called for.
You might get new information. It might be better, or more clarified information. And when that information points you to a change in strategy, go ahead and pivot.
It’s hard, I get it. You have sold the strategy. It has your name all over it. You’re committed to delivering results. If you just keep going, maybe it will turn around. Maybe if the team worked harder…
Don’t do that to yourself or to your people. Pivoting can save the entire project and get you the result you’re ultimately looking for, even if it means more money and longer timelines to achieve it.
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