The Importance of Activities and Structure
Execution is the sum of all activities performed within an organization. This is where the rubber hits the road and to execute successfully tasks must be directly relevant to the company's Strategic Intent.
On paper your processes and roles may be clearly defined, however, in reality, tasks performed in the field can contrast this significantly. There are several scenarios in which these gaps can develop. For instance, employees may use a workaround to accommodate a unique situation or to override a system’s limitations. More often though, we find employees are required to perform tasks that create no added value or that are at odds with the company's strategy. A poorly chosen metric will drive undesirable behavior, a process designed without consideration for upstream or downstream constraints, or misinformation of the company’s strategy can result in activities contradicting the organization’s market positioning.
One famous example of this happened to a furniture company. A new manager asked the delivery drivers to buy a rose to give to each client and then conduct a detailed satisfaction review. This would have been suitable for a high-end store, however, this company was built on low prices and high efficiency. These newly implemented tasks understandably slowed down delivery schedules dramatically hurting their already thin margins and muddling the store’s brand.
Are your activities and structure consistent with your strategy?
Consider the questions below. If you answer “no” at least once, you would be well-served to scrutinize the major activities being performed by your employees and weigh them against your strategy.
If employees were asked, would they say that they spend their daily efforts only on tasks that are critical?
Is your strategy a clear guide to help employees prioritize their daily activities and priorities?
Do all employees clearly see the connection between their work and customer value?
Is individual decision-making systematically encouraged?
Line-of-Sight gives our clients an unvarnished assessment of how relevant the activities they perform are in relation to executing their company’s strategy. This is where productivity can be improved, not by working faster but by eliminating superfluous tasks that do not directly contribute to the strategy.
To utilize this approach, first ensure that your strategy is communicated in clear and simple terms throughout the entire organization. This is why Strategic Understanding is such an important driver in successful execution. This gives employees the ability to assess whether the activities they perform add value.
Second, employees must be empowered to make decisions, providing them leeway to focus on tasks aligned with the company’s goals. This requires information to flow openly, allowing individuals to prioritize tasks by considering how it fits into broader operations.
Finally, your structure must aggregate and organize activities in a way that makes sense with your strategy. Elon Musk famously remarked that poor service delivery or product design often reflects breakpoints between functions or teams in the organization. Michael Porter reinforces this idea by saying, “The essence of strategy lies in choosing what NOT to do.”
Ultimately your role as a leader is to ruthlessly fight “task inflation”, the natural tendency for human organizations to do more rather than less, losing track of what is important. When activities are streamlined, employees can better focus on what’s important. This in turn highlights how they’re contributing to the bigger strategy, which enhances motivation and raises productivity.
In our next blog, we will discuss ways in which to attract and retain Human Capital.
How well is your business executing? To find out, contact us and we will initiate an assessment of your execution capabilities.