While doing some light reading in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, I discovered an interesting article titled “Why Strategy Execution Unravels,” which detailed the results of an interesting poll of some 400 international chief executive officers of large corporations. The idea was to determine the number one challenge these anointed leaders faced within their own house.
Well, hot damn Priscilla, it turns out these leaders of all things worldly have the same number one problem us peons have – execution. So, according to the commentary, an inquisitive smart dude, with a lot of time on his hands, set up some 40 experiments making “changes” in companies, and then he measured the impact on execution. In his obvious spare time, he surveyed “8,000 managers in more than 250 companies” and determined that managers have the wrong freakin’ beliefs about how to execute strategy. I was thinking any of us automotive industry minions could have provided the answer if he had asked, which would have saved a lot of surveying time.
In any event, I was really getting into this review, and then I got fully cranked when he claimed that there were “five” myths which are “pernicious” (malicious and spiteful – just in case you don’t use that description regularly) regarding execution. Note: When a heady term like that is tossed about Paco, one has to pay attention. Now, the cake topper is that these conclusions result from some 7,600 managers in 262 companies across 30 industries. I began sweating profusely.
The survey included all levels of management from the top to measly team leaders, so now I am thinking “this is the real stuff” – not about white-shirted and suited stuffy pock-marked execs whining about everyone’s performance. The interest in this quest was pronounced with a full 95% (wow) of the respondents finishing the survey, which averaged 40 minutes in length – had to be more than just interesting with these phenomenal results. One had to pay attention to this study I calculated – and I am glad I did just that!
Myth One: Execution Equals Alignment
“In the managers’ minds, execution equals alignment, so a failure to execute implies a breakdown in the processes to link strategy to action at every level in the organization.” More simply put is telling someone to do something, then measuring results (the threatening part), ends up doing little to enhance performance in many circumstances. Managers thought that the measuring and rewarding should do the trick, so there must be a “breakdown” somewhere. You and I have been there my friend.
Get this most interesting article quote – “Only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other functions and units (departments) all the time, and just half say they can rely on them most of the time. Commitments from these colleagues are typically not much more reliable than promises made by external partners, such as distributors and suppliers.”
That interesting premise in our little atmosphere example is – customers relying on ASMs, relying on marketing, relying on offers, relying on techs, relying on training, relying on parts personnel, relying on parts management abilities, relying on DMS protocol, relying on delivery companies, relying on PDCs, relying on suppliers, relying on engineers, and the list could continue on and on. Hey, let’s have an “Hours per RO” contest – didn’t work, must be the wimpy ASM staff.
Wow, I thought. I am starting to get this. The reliance factor is massive, so that any one entity can only function as well as the countless entities surrounding it. Yet, as management we (I have done this) often conclude loosely that the one entity is the problem when goals aren’t met. Are we setting unrealistic targets for what are essentially victims of the systems they function within? I was beginning to feel like Sherlock Holmes.
Then came this tasty morsel: “When managers cannot rely on colleagues in other functions and units, they compensate with a host of dysfunctional behaviors that undermine execution: They duplicate effort, let promises to customers slip, delay their deliverables, or pass up attractive opportunities.” If you haven’t experienced this smack in the face, you aren’t in charge of anything. How many times have I heard a service manager rip up a parts manager and visa-versa? Of course the way to bring these two combatants together is to bring up the sales manager (I usually just slide down in my chair and order another beer after I fling that grenade)!
And next: “Managers also say they are three times more likely to miss performance commitments because of insufficient support from other units than because of their own teams’ failure to deliver.” Yep, just more confirmation that it’s everyone else’s fault – the new American way – ask anyone under 30 years old.
Fortunately, I am more educated than many readers – which means (I’m being frank here) I have made many, many more mistakes than you, unless you have been treading the same waters for 40+ years like me. My take is that we suffer from silo-oriented general managers and even owners, who don’t take the time to inject themselves into the “whole” of what makes the business really tick (aka, solvent).
They know their own chalkboard extremely well and bury themselves in it. The next time I meet a designated GM who is making a concerted effort to learn, monitor, and motivate the width and length of our total business model will be one of the first in recent times.
Ok, so we reviewed and hammered Myth One a bit. We have four more myths to go, so don’t miss the next edition of Dealer Magazine if you are so inclined to continue on with the skinny of this intuitive article. It only gets more interesting, I promise, and tossing about Harvard Business Review makes us look pretty smart at the worst.
Check the March issue of that periodical if you really care. You won’t be disappointed. Hey, it’s O’Beer Hundred Joe, see ya next month.