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Why Most Companies Will Fail In 2008

Jan 15, 2008
And 3 Steps to Make Sure Yours Isn't One of Them

Many people in your organization have resolutions for the New Year. As you read this, strategies are being executed to lose weight, get stronger, spend more time with family, and make more money.

Your company has a resolution - the same one it has every year: increase profitability. And, no doubt strategies are under way to achieve that resolution. Sadly though, just like the majority of the New Year's resolutions held by your colleagues, your company is likely to fall far short of achieving its yearly objective. Why? Because the strategies implemented fail.

The latest study from Ernst and Young reveals that 66% of corporate strategy is never executed. The waste and loss in potential caused by your team's inability to execute is staggering - and includes a disenfranchised workforce, relentless reorganizations, dissatisfied customers ... and a hit to the psyche that bleeds into the community.

If these are the facts, how hopeful can you be about 2008? The answer: if you master the steps below, 2008 will be the year you and your organization steps on the scale and wins.

What Kills Results

Most New Year's resolutions fail. Here's the biggest reason why: while working toward an objective, the majority of people measure all the ways they're failing. These people keep track of where "they've fallen off the wagon," and the moments they ate the extra cookie. This is a focus that makes them feel like dog do-do. People do not make good choices or give the extra effort when they don't feel good.

Our research shows that the same holds true within organizations. Teams spend endless hours focusing on why their strategies are failing. They point fingers, revisit old information, and waste time being defensive.

Is it any wonder people are not getting things done? When we beat ourselves up, when we destroy our forward momentum, how likely is it that our New Year's resolutions - profitability - will become a reality?

Most people make progress more difficult than it needs to be.

A 3-Point Plan To Achieving The Company Resolution

To make changes we must feel good about ourselves; we must have momentum on our side. Those individuals and companies who succeed do so because they first create momentum in their lives. They understand that results are an outcome, not a strategy. Therefore, they focus on creating the conditions - a healthy culture - that allow strategies to be successfully executed.

Rich Crawford is the President of Global Glass Operations for O-I, the largest glass producer in the world. He and his team have lifted O-I stock from under $10 a share to over $40. Their strategies are working because they've established the conditions that allow them to.

"You've got to connect culture and strategy. If you don't start there, you'll waste a lot of time," says Crawford. "I had a visitor from another organization in my office, and he's incredibly frustrated. He does these surveys - all focused on making things faster and better - and they completely miss that it's the people. So many leaders make it more difficult than it is.

"We know where we need to go - and it begins by getting people together and creating a culture so they can do it."

You can do this, too.

Step #1: Religiously focus on the progress that is being made. Do you want the people executing strategies to believe they cannot succeed - or have confidence? The majority of conversations in meetings focus on "what we're doing wrong" and this kills confidence.

You can reverse this trend by creating a culture of celebration. We're not talking about throwing pizza parties every time someone does something well; we are talking about verbally appreciating efforts, giving handshakes for achieving small steps, and posting progress. Such actions establish a focus that builds confidence - and assures the momentum is heading in the proper direction.

Step #2: Ask the right questions. Average leaders everywhere are telling people what to do...and then lamenting that nothing's getting done. Enlightened people understand that nothing disengages people faster than the "telling approach" to leadership.

Questions that we don't know the answer to are the key to greater execution. But not just any questions. "What are we doing wrong?" and "What's the problem?" build walls fast and assure that everyone will be "experts" at failure. To create experts of success, ask questions like "What can we do better?" and "What are the issues we must improve on?"

Step #3: Tap into motivations. In the moment people make choices - the choices that will determine whether a strategy works or not - one thing influences their decision more than anything else: their motivation. When people are clear on what they want and why they want it, they often make great choices.

How connected to "purpose" are the people executing strategies around you? The body builder sitting at the dinner table has a vision of what they want their body to look like - and they make decisions accordingly. What vision do people sitting in your meetings have? These questions tap into motivations and move things forward:

* What is important for us to achieve now?
* How are our efforts connected to our yearly objectives?
* Why is flawless execution of this strategy important?

Your company's ability to achieve its New Year's resolution - to execute strategies - is a function of how effectively people approach those strategies. Create momentum for yourself and others by following through with the three action steps above - and consider that you could achieve much more than your New Year's resolution.
About the Author
Stomp the Elephant in the Office employs the programs and concepts successfully implemented by Pathways to Leadership, Inc., formed by Steven Vannoy and Craig Ross. To find out how big the elephant in YOUR office is, visit Stomp the Elephant.
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