Focusing on strategy execution benefits employees
Strategies are not abstract ideas that only a select few are concerned with; they’re concrete plans of action that people implement in their daily activities.
Focusing on strategy execution means engaging your people in the strategic processes. Those processes involve your strategic plan’s development, assessment, and implementation capabilities.
Conceptual and dictated strategies belong to the past. Grounded and co-created strategies are the way forward. And in co-creation, context rules over content.
Here are some specific ways that engaging your employees in the strategic processes benefits execution:
Why employees benefit from engaging with strategy execution
1. Because they understand the big picture
And their place in it.
At the end of the day, people execute strategies. It’s the actions on the front line that move the needle, not the elaborate details of backstage planning. Problems arise when people on the front line can’t see the impact of their work. They move their organization towards its strategic goals but don’t know it.
This creates a gap between people's actual work impact and their perception of it. They might get a glimpse of their impact on a team level, but it’s limited. As a result, they don’t understand how their work fits into the bigger picture or why they do what they do.
In other words, they lack context.
This gap has a twofold effect.
- The effort and decisions are all over the place. There isn’t a guiding destination that allows people to collect and direct those efforts towards it. The lack of context compels people to make decisions based on temporary circumstances.
- It robs them of the satisfactory feeling of participating in a large cause. On the contrary, when people understand how their work contributes to their company’s vision, they take pride in their work and feel fulfilled.
Fulfillment isn’t an emotion that stems from celebrating victories.
A person could feel fulfilled at the end of their working day despite making a mistake or missing a target. That’s because fulfillment stems from a feeling of belonging and working towards a vision that is bigger than any single victory. That’s why it’s so important to share the context of the company’s strategy. It highlights the bigger picture.
And when people understand the big picture, they engage with it more.
2. Because they work smarter instead of harder
Engaged employees don’t work on default mode.
They are more conscious about the things they work on. They allocate more time to finding out the most important tasks and prioritize them over the rest. They work on working. The most important kind of work.
This is due to the increased alignment the strategic context provides. Alignment that is generated by an intense focus on strategy execution and goes beyond setting goals and objectives. It integrates strategy with business as usual. That means people’s daily activities are aligned with the team’s goals and projects, which are, in turn, aligned with the strategic objectives.
Meanwhile, the plan’s objectives, timelines, and goals are updated based on people’s feedback. Any unrealistic, overambitious, and overoptimistic aspects are adapted to fit the company’s reality.
This creates a positive loop.
Where people align their actions with the plan’s goals, their involvement in the strategy grounds it to reality. The thing is that the loop breaks if there is too much friction on certain processes. Specifically, if the strategic context (not content) is not clear or the grounding process takes too much time, then the loop expands too much, rendering it ineffective.
That’s why it’s so important to migrate from static tools like spreadsheets and slides into dynamic platforms like Cascade.
Their impact is visible to everyone
This is an added benefit of having more transparent strategic processes that invite more people (than just the executives) in the strategy discussions and expose the plan to every stakeholder.
The need for increased transparency forces managers to adopt tools and install processes that highlight every team member’s contribution to progress through team projects and individual responsibilities.
As a result, no work goes unnoticed by the superiors, who realize the value each individual brings to the team.
3. Because they do fewer administrative tasks & more actual work
One of the most appreciated benefits that strategy execution software like Cascade provides to executives and managers is a clear overview of the plan’s structure and the current progress towards the strategic objectives and goals.
This has a direct impact on people’s everyday work.
It reduces the need for out-of-the-blue progress updates. For example, managers don’t need to send emails asking, “Where are we concerning X?” since they can get into the platform and, with a few clicks, get the answer themselves.
This also reduces reporting friction.
No more spreadsheets with countless versions and time spent looking for the right one. Instead, all information is collected into one centralized location with integrated abilities to track and report progress. As a result, managers get a clear and concise view of the current trajectory, and people spend less time composing long reports and emails and more time doing things that move the needle.
4. Because they gain clarity in their performance expectations
A focus on strategic execution forces an alignment process that brings structure into performance management.
How does it work?
By introducing top-down transparency. Two things are accomplished simultaneously in a platform like Cascade, where all aspects of the plan are exposed available on-demand to every team member.
Firstly, the workload of each team member becomes apparent, and managers have a clearer view of how many projects each person is responsible for. That forces a conversation around prioritization. Each project’s impact is determined and then they are ranked based on their importance.
So people have a better sense of where to focus their efforts and resources. It also facilitates finding duplicate work between different teams and saving the resources that would otherwise be wasted (like hiring new people to cover needs the company doesn’t have).
Secondly, the discussions around impact and importance allow team members to raise their concerns, address potential blocks and get clearer instructions. As a result, employees better understand expectations and what success looks like. Not only do they invite structure into their work, but they also get more specific, tailored and clear instructions.
This also impacts reviewing meetings since candid discussions help balance the execution's subjective part with the metrics' objective aspects. This means that meetings don’t address only KPIs' progress but move on to discuss judgment calls and decision-making.
5. Because they get more authority (& less micromanagement)
Inviting people to engage with the strategic processes sets the foundation for effective strategy execution. Because it creates a strong sense of ownership and accountability.
Humans feel responsible for anything they have spent time and energy to create. It makes them feel invested, so they strive to bring it to completion.
It’s the same for strategy. When people feel like they have contributed to the development of the strategic plan and co-created it, they are intrinsically motivated to bring it to life and integrate it into their daily activities.
That creates a fertile ground for employee empowerment because managers know that everyone is on the same strategic page and that decisions are aligned with the company’s objectives and aspirations.
Thus, managers trust their people to make the right decisions and grant them the authority to do so.
It’s a win-win scenario because managers delegate more decisions, reduce micromanaging and take back valuable time that they can spend on more important tasks.
At the same time, people acquire the freedom to make the right decisions since they have the strategic context to inform them and the flexibility to apply the customer knowledge they possess.
Employees feel empowered and customers are better served.
However, there is one crucial requirement.
Culture needs one particular trait for these benefits to take place
Specifically, top-down trust and, ideally, all-directional (vertical and lateral) trust. In a culture with a strict distinction between the private and public spheres, initiatives aiming to increase bottom-up transparency without similar or more radical top-down moves have the reverse effect.
They are perceived as more measures to control and micromanage.
That’s why it’s so important to have a balance of metrics to measure trust and performance. For example, besides regular performance metrics, include peer reviews that evaluate people on their people skills, like cooperation, trust, communication, etc.
Then, make decisions based on that, as well.