What's In the Way?
In facilitating countless strategy and planning sessions, some familiar patterns have become evident. Among these is the notion that core objectives often remain a constant (strategic growth, improved profitability/EBITDA, strengthening the level of expertise of managers and supervisors, elevating the use of technology, etc.). Notwithstanding the progress made by these organizations, the fact that these key objectives remain front and center can be a puzzle. Maybe the focus is on the wrong things.
When businesses continue to identify similar objectives over time, chances are that something is in the way. We refer to these in several ways: obstacles, problems, barriers, and the like but one thing is clear. Something (or several “somethings”) is preventing the kind of progress that will pave the way for significant, timely accomplishment of stated objectives. Once identified, these issues become raw material for establishing a robust tactical plan which moves resources in the direction of neutralizing or eliminating them and clearing the way for positive outcomes.
An “issues-based agenda” can be a most useful tool to help get and keep the focus where it is most needed. During the initial strategy session, the first step is to identify which issues (obstacles) inhibit progress on each objective. That done, the discussion shifts from the objective to the obstacles impeding our progress. This becomes the sole focus of the tactical discussion, understanding that until these are solved, progress on the objective will be minimal at best.
What do these obstacles look like? Insufficient resources, technology issues, staff preparation and training, internal conflicts, past missteps to name a few. Among the most common are people-related issues; team members unwilling or unable to take on new initiatives, fearful of making a mistake. Turf wars and mistrust between departments are often cited. Sometimes, as difficult as this may be to confront, obstacles are placed there by employees who have become motivated by pursuits other than those of the business. It is not uncommon to discover that this has been going on for some time. Swift and sure intervention is needed here.
Once issues are captured, they are prioritized and a pro-active plan for addressing them is developed and placed on the “90 day” list — things we need to do in the coming quarter. At each quarterly update session, progress on these issues is assessed and completed items roll off the list. Those in process are marked for continuation. Because business is anything but static, new issues which may have arisen during the last quarter are added to the list which is then prioritized. A new “90 day” list is created, and the process continues.
An “issues-based agenda” can get the team focused and moving in the right direction.
For more information on ways to help your organization identify and eliminate obstacles, contact me at email@example.com
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.