Managed Services

It’s Not Automagic: How to Make Strategy Relevant

A few years ago, my wife came home from a software training at work laughing about something. The young trainer would make a selection on the screen and instead of yelling “voila!” or “tuh-DAH!” he’d exclaim, “Look, it’s automagic!”

In my last column I talked about the importance of coming up with a decent strategy, one that is truly a game-changer.

But strategy doesn’t get implemented automagically. So that’s why I reached out to a friend who has a ton of experience in the strategy implementation arena, hoping he could provide some advice.

How Successful Companies Do Strategy

Rodrigo Herrera is a senior strategy and leadership consultant based in Houston who has worked with companies of all sizes to take their strategic planning to the next level. He has spent a lot of time thinking about why some companies successfully execute strategy while so many others fail to convert.

The key difference is engagement: Successful companies make the strategy relevant to everyone in the company. “Workers must understand how their day-to-day work connects to the strategy,” says Herrera. “If people can’t link themselves and what they are accountable for to the vision and the strategy, the strategy stays on the shelf and never gets implemented.”

For example, a company’s strategy might be something bold like, “Dominate the MSP space in our state through innovative and tailored solutions.” That’s all well and good, but the sales team needs to know what that looks like in terms of target numbers of new versus old services, and operations requires direction on what they have to do to support new offerings at the higher volume. “Even the HR people need to know how to adapt hiring for that goal.”

Know What You'll Say 'No' To

My column three weeks ago argued that an effective strategy will usually be controversial. Herrera, too, points to trade-offs as essential to strategy, and that every manager and worker in the company needs to be aware to what they are saying no to this year. “Managers need guidance on how to make the right trade-offs and not go after everything.”

Measurable projections have to demonstrate alignment around those trade-offs, and the goals need to prioritize long-term achievement. As Herrera sees it, “If you’re only focused on the short term, you’re always only building half a bridge. You’ll never get to the other shore.”

Introducing new products/services and going after new markets -- such investments take time, and the company has to have the discipline to hold a steady course. That may mean swallowing some lackluster quarters in the meantime.

Tips for Executing Magical Strategy

Herrera has a few key tips for executing that magic strategy:

  1. Putting numbers to the strategy helps ensure the team is aligned around the commitments it implies and can hold themselves accountable to it.
  2. Spell out for each person how their numbers and achievements contribute to the overall strategic goals.
  3. Make it okay to discuss good and bad news alike so the assessment of progress is always data-driven, and any corrections are based in real facts.
  4. Create a culture of behaviors that align with the strategy. For example, if innovating new services is a priority, you'll want workers to know it's okay to fail so long as they are often trying new things.

I wish more things happened automagically: like mowing a lawn, or procuring a passport.

At least we might make implementation of our strategy look easy.

Make it look “automagic”!

Eric Larson, CEO and Lead Organizational Detective, TheORGDetectives

Eric Larson is the CEO of The Organizational Detectives LLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a management consulting firm. A former executive at CompTIA Spark, he was part of the team that branded and launched CompTIA’s IT-Ready training program for entry-level tech workers. He has developed technical and soft-skills training programs for IT executives and workers and is a writer of mystery novels under the pen-name Eric Lodin.  Learn more about his company’s services at: