Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Strategic Planning Analogy #383: Showing Up (Part 1)
Just because you are good at moving ON the basketball court does not mean you are good at moving to get TO the basketball court. Former basketball star Isaiah Rider is one such example. Isaiah seemed to get left behind when the rest of his team (the Los Angeles Lakers) were on their way to the game.
In January 2001, he was late and missed the Lakers charter plane to their next game. Isaiah Rider had to catch a commercial flight in order to catch up to his team. In the prior November, Rider missed the team bus to get to a game in San Antonio. In December of 2000, he arrived an hour late for a home game.
For a person who had so much trouble getting to his rides, it’s ironic that his last name was Rider.
Just think of what the sporting world would be like if all the athletes had as much difficulty getting to games as Isaiah Rider. It’s impossible to perform well on the court if the team doesn’t show up. All the effort to charter planes and buses and to arrange all of the other transportation issues is a waste of time if nobody bothers to use them.
The same thing can happen in the world of strategy. You can put a great deal of effort into creating the perfect strategic position and an ideal plan to get there. But, if the employees do not show up, the plan will never succeed.
Even if the employees show up physically, if their desires and emotions are not with the plan, then the plan will probably fail.
That is why strategic planning has to deal with more than just how to win in the marketplace. It also has to deal with getting the company to accept the plan and be willing to fight for it in the marketplace. In other words, you need to sell the plan to the employees, so that they will show up willing to execute the plan to the best of their abilities.
The principle here is that the level of strategic success is often correlated to the level of buy-in that the employees have for the plan. If significant numbers of employees disagree with the plan (or are not fully committed to it), then the likelihood of success drops considerably.
I was reminded of this in looking over the work of Chris McGoff. After spending a lifetime consulting with governments and businesses, he has discovered that if you want to successfully get things done, you first need to understand how people interrelate and how groups function. After all, the work gets done by groups. If the groups are dysfunctional, then so will be their output. McGoff has summarized his learnings into 32 “Primes.” You can read about it here.
Much of his work talks about trying to knock down those roadblocks which keep a team from backing the plan. In other words, he tackles the barriers which keep people from showing up completely committed to making the plan succeed. I have reworked some of his ideas into my own list. If you have a team that cannot rally behind your plan, consider these items as areas to address in order to get the teams back on track.
I have seven points on my list. We will look at three of them today, and the remaining four in the next blog.
A good coach will tell you that a team performs better when there is greater motivation to win. Perhaps what your team needs to get on track is greater motivation. Since people are motivated in different ways, we need to use multiple methods to ensure that everyone on the team is properly motivated. This means using multiple flavors, multiple targets, and multiple communication tools.
Motivation comes in two flavors—Positive Motivation (an inspirational outcome of a great higher purpose if you succeed) and Negative Motivation (great harm and evil if you do not succeed). Positive motivation converts work from merely being a job to being a mission for greatness. An example of a positive motivation occurred back in 1983 when Steve Jobs motivated Joh Sculley to leave Pepsi and take over Apple by asking him if he wanted to “sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” We’ve talked about this concept here, and here.
Negative motivations try to show that what we are working on is extremely important. Too much is at stake to not take this seriously. It is worth the sacrifice. An example of negative motivation would be in how countries motivate people to go to war. The logic is that if we do not go to war against this great evil, it will overcome us and we will lose everything we hold dear.
These two flavors can be pointed at three targets—the head (logic), the heart (emotion) and the wallet (finances). All three need to be addressed, since some individuals are only motivated by one of these targets. To reach all, you need to address all. Use logical appeals, emotional appeals, and financial appeals.
Finally, some people think visually, some think numerically, and others think verbally. Therefore, use a variety of tools to communicate the motivation—pictures/charts, numbers, and stories.
2. Core Beliefs
In today’s political environment, it seems that people want to position the opposition as stupid. In other words, if you do not agree with me, you must be an idiot. It’s hard to resolve differences when you have no respect for the intelligence of the opposition. This same situation can happen when a business discusses strategy. Cooperation breaks down because we have trouble dealing with “idiots.”
My experience is that those opposing us are not stupid. Their conclusions are not baseless. There is sound logic behind their conclusions. It’s just that they are working from a different set of core beliefs. And until you specifically address the core beliefs, you are wasting your time arguing the outcomes of those core beliefs.
Until you understand these core beliefs, you will not know how to reach a solution which addresses those beliefs. Perhaps you can find common ground where the core beliefs overlap. Perhaps most importantly, understanding core beliefs will increase the respect people have for each other. Rather than assuming the opposition cannot think, one now can understand how they think, making it easier to work together to make the plan a reality.
So if a discussion bogs down over an issue, consider redirecting the discussion towards an understanding of the core beliefs behind people’s differing conclusions. Ask people to explain the beliefs which lead them to their conclusion. For more on this idea, go here.
We can only react to that to which we have been exposed. Different parts of the organization have been exposed to different things. Therefore, it is not surprising that each area comes to different conclusions. If you want people to come to similar conclusions, then you need to have exposure to a similar perspective of what is going on.
This is like the old story of the blind men and the elephant. One blind man was only exposed to the elephant’s leg, so he thought he was dealing with a tree (and needed a tree strategy). One blind man was only exposed to the trunk, so he thought he was dealing with a snake (and needed a snake strategy). One was only exposed to the tail and thought he needed a rope strategy. And so on.
So first of all, that requires sharing our experiences with each other—a mutual perspective from all angles. As in the story of the blind men, each blind man needs to share their perspective with the others. Similarly, the people at headquarters need to know what is going on out in the field and vice versa. For example, someone out in the field may be arguing for redirecting resources to shore up a weakness not knowing that headquarters has already decided to shore up that weakness with an acquisition, making that redirection unnecessary.
Secondly, one needs to have a large enough perspective—large enough to encompass the context needed to reach the proper conclusion. If you want an “elephant” strategy, then you need a large enough perspective to encompass the entire elephant, not just the legs. In other words, if you want people to back a big plan, then you need them to see the big picture. Take the time to show how all the pieces fit together. Otherwise, people will separately try to maximize the results in their own little areas, creating sub-optimal results for the whole of the business.
Therefore, if people are coming to different conclusions, check to make sure that everyone has a complete enough and large enough perspective on the facts relevant to the discussion. If not, fix the perspective before moving on.
To be a success, you need more than just a great strategic vision and a great plan to achieve it. You also need to have your employees united around making it a reality. If the employees don’t show up with enthusiasm to achieve this common purpose, the rest of the work is a waste of time. There are seven roadblocks to achieving this employee commitment to the plan. In today’s blog, we looked at three of them:
• Motivation – Does the team see the higher purpose; do they see what is at stake; do they feel it in their head, heart & wallet; has the communication captivated them at their point of interest (stories, pictures, numbers)?
• Core Beliefs – Does the team understand what is driving the logic behind each other’s conclusions; do they have respect for how others think; are they looking for common ground?
• Perspective – Does the team have a shared perspective, so that we all know what everyone else knows; do the team have a large enough perspective, so that they can see everything necessary to grasp the entire vision?
Woody Allen once said that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” If you want to win the battle in the marketplace, make sure your people show up—physically, mentally and emotionally—ready to fight hard for the success of the strategy.