These days hardly anyone dares not to have a strategic plan. It’s unthinkable, like not having a CEO, or a website. Some sweat through developing one themselves; others outsource the job to a consultant, whom they foolishly imagine can churn one out for them.
However produced, some just have one, well, so they can say they have one, while others have one so it can actually guide their operations.
But they all, even the most dedicated, have a hard time with implementation. However much they own the plan, however powerful or relevant it may be.
Much more has been written about building a strategy than about executing one. We should not be too surprised though, as it’s so much more exciting to be a strategy developer than to be the whip-wielding disciplinarian who drives it through.
Having said that, there is still a good deal of literature on strategy implementation or, as it is often called, “execution.”
For some years I have benefited from the practical wisdom contained in an excellent book called ‘‘Execution — The Discipline of Getting Things Done’’, and more recently I was introduced to ‘‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’’.
The front flap sets the scene well by asking; “Do you remember the last major initiative you watched die in your organisation? Did it go down with a major crash? Or was it slowly and quietly suffocated by other competing priorities?’’
So what are the four disciplines of effective execution proposed in this book? First, you must inspire with a “Wildly Important Goal” — a WIG — (reminiscent of the BHAG – the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” from Jim Collins’ book, ‘‘Good to Great’’).
Second, you must act on the “Lead Measures” — the disproportionately significant issues. Third, keep a highly visible “Compelling Scoreboard”, so everyone can see how execution is proceeding.
And fourth “Create a Cadence of Accountability”, where ownership of the goal and the tasks that must be accomplished to achieve it are universally owned.
These four disciplines of execution are labelled “4DX”, and the organisation that introduced me to the approach was the Nairobi Hilton, as it is being rolled out worldwide to all the hotels in the group. I was asked to help them launch the initiative locally, and I know from previous work with the Hilton that when they spend time on strengthening aspects of their culture they take the matter very seriously.
It’s like some years ago, when I worked with their managers and supervisors on internalising their values, which I have easily remembered ever since: Hospitality, Integrity, Leadership, Teamwork, Ownership and Now (for having a sense of urgency).
More recently I facilitated retreats for the Hilton leaders as they worked on the visibly measurable Wildly Important Goal of their 4DX to see how it could be owned and executed by the entire hotel staff.
The intention for all Hilton hotels is for them to focus on consistently improving the stay of their key customers.
During our sessions we concluded that the critical success factor for the 4DX initiative was sustained and disciplined commitment, with the stipulated weekly review meetings around the scoreboard being held without fail.
We also examined how to get to the root causes of challenges (using the cumulative “Five Whys”) and how to effectively monitor and evaluate the planned continuous improvement.
Time was spent on seeing how to empower and motivate the staff so the hotel can do an exceptional job of satisfying its guests — and hence having them recommend the hotel to more customers.
We emphasised the importance of celebrating successes, of being sensitive to how criticism is expressed to colleagues, and of being good listeners.
Finally, it is not lost on me that this is the first of my articles to appear following our General Election.
Prior to the polls we were regaled with utopian political party manifestos from all sides, and now the chosen ones are called upon to deliver.
How will they execute, we now want to know, and how well will they live the HILTON values with us all?