Another failed project.

As statistics prove, the probability is high that you will experience failed projects. About one in three projects fail to achieve the objectives established at the outset.

I see executives regularly believe three assumptions that cause false starts and delays when they begin to implement their strategies or any transformational change.

  1. Executives believe they create strategy that is clear enough to successfully execute.
  2. Executives believe they are the only ones who can lead transformational change.
  3. Executives believe that aligning their immediate teams is only about behavior.

Let’s take these one at a time, debunk them and offer solutions.

Assumption 1: Executives believe they create strategy that is clear enough to successfully execute.

  • Why this assumption is wrong: I’ve seen this proven wrong time and time again, and studies support this. Up to 90% of executives admit their own strategies are not executable.
  • The impact: The leading causes of this failure are lack of clear purpose understood across the leadership team and lack of a clear execution plan that all employees can rally around.
  • How you can correct it: Ensure your purpose is clear and that its outcomes are relatable, especially to the front-line. Be sure your leadership team understands the implications of these outcomes in each of their functions. Build a plan to enroll employees to drive success and long-term sustainability.

Assumption 2: Executives believe they are the only ones who can lead transformational change.

  • Why this assumption is wrong: If you believe that you are the only one who can lead the implementation of your strategy, then you are in for a long, drawn-out implementation. Don’t plan on seeing your family anytime soon.
  • The impact: Besides long hours? With limited ownership, the most critical impact is the lack of sustainability. If you are the only author of the change, and others don’t have an opportunity to enroll, customize and help implement, the probability of it sticking is near zero.
  • How you can correct it: The best leaders take time to establish frameworks so that first-line supervisors and front-line employees lead a bulk of the effort. For supervisors, this might be defining new operational metrics and linkages across the organization. Front-line employees can author new business processes and guidelines to operate in the new environment.

Assumption 3: Executives believe that aligning their immediate teams is only about behavior.

  • Why this assumption is wrong: The most common response I’ve heard about dealing with alignment and resolving cross-functional dysfunction is that leaders think this is the “soft, fluffy stuff.” Far from it. Understanding how a change in one area impacts other areas is essential for success.
  • The impact: When you implement any strategy or any change, there are impacts to the way people work in each function of your organization. Not understanding how this impacts their interdependencies will significantly slow your transformation – or cause it to fail.
  • How you can correct it: Alignment is not just about building greater organizational trust and establishing an environment where employees can engage in healthy debate and challenge one another. It’s also about being crystal clear about up-stream and down-stream impacts that result from the implementation of the change – and planning appropriately for these changes.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve