When I first started in business I made multiple assumptions about what led organizations and leaders to be successful. Surprise, surprise I’ve learned a lot in my eight years running the benefits practice — and developing other businesses — for our firm.
Perhaps the most important and critical thing I’ve learned is that implementation is not only critical, it may be more important than setting strategy. Many leaders spend time thinking about strategy and vision – very important to running a successful business – and not much time about how to implement the vision or strategy.
Or put another way, leaders spend a lot of time postulating about the strategy of their businesses, but not an equal amount of time on how the business will implement the strategy. This leads to future problems for the business.
To demonstrate how this might happen, let’s imagine we are sitting in the board room (your board room) with the leaders of the benefits practice. The topic of discussion is that the benefits space is changing rapidly and our firm must take strategic steps or we will be out of business. Specifically, one of your leaders says that we need to develop a better approach to wellness. Given the current marketplace, this seems like the right strategy for your business and everyone at the table agrees to the strategy. The meeting ends with everyone clearly understanding that having an approach to wellness is a good strategy and something your team is committed to doing.
What happens now? Everyone agrees investing in wellness is a good idea, but now the hard work starts. Here are two suggestions to help you implement:
- Assign a champion. Our firm had many meetings that fit the above scenario; we agreed to a strategic initiative, discussed what options to pursue, and then left the meeting. It was easy to make a decision and set the strategy for our firm. We realized however that over time there was a major disconnect in what we were deciding in our strategic meetings and what was actually happening. So we decided to assign a champion for every initiative. The role of the champion is to make sure that all steps are complete and that the initiative has been communicated clearly. Lastly, the champion needs to ensure we have metrics in place to measure our results. Assigning a champion (pick your strong implementers) is a great first step.
- Over-communicate. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive”, one of the key suggestions is that executives need to over-communicate. I couldn’t agree more – especially when implementing a new strategic initiative. Over-communicating the progress you are making to your executive team as well as to your employees is absolutely necessary to successful implementation.
Certainly there are more ways to ensure successful implementation, but assigning a champion and over-communicating are two good places to start. They have helped our firm implement strategic initiatives faster and with more clarity.
Lacher, CIC, leads the Employee Benefits and Consulting divisions of Lacher & Associates, a second-generation firm located outside Philadelphia. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkLacher and @Lacherinsurance.
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