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Are you bridging the gap?

A few years ago, the Economist Magazine Intelligence Unit did a study involving 500 executives. 61% of them said that their companies struggle to bridge the gap between strategy and its day-to-day implementation.

In other words, two-thirds of companies that have strategies, might as well not.

Would you have guessed that statistic, if I had asked you? Would you have declared the “ability to deliver consistent results” a rare ability? Looking back on my own years as a CEO in a manufacturing company, I would have described it as rare, at the time.

The need to bridge this gap (and the difficulty in actually doing it), is one reason our organizations need exceptional managers so desperately. While the creation of strategy often lives at the CEO-level, execution lives with the manager. This is the Managers’ job. If your Managers aren’t bridging the gap, your strategy will be all up to you.

Last week I put forward a definition of management:

This week, I want to go a bit deeper on this first responsibility. There’s a certain percentage of people who immediately push back on me, when I say that “delivering consistent results” is the first set of skills we need to master, as managers. It’s not entirely popular to put results first, in this climate. It’s much more “on trend” to talk people-first, relationships-first, nurture-first.

But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s effective.

Having worked in a management role where I struggled to deliver consistent results, I learned in a much too painful way what happens in this scenario. When I wasn’t showing up each month with results (or progress toward an end result), there were very few other conversations my CEO-boss would let me have. Our conversations revolved around the plan to improve results…until such time as they actually started to improve.

When we aren’t delivering consistent results, as managers, it’s a lot like going a road trip with an empty tank of gas. You’ve probably never tried this because you’re more organized than me…but I can tell you that when my car’s tank is on empty, I’m not really daydreaming much about the destination – about where we might go next, where we might stop for dinner or what kind of great experience might be around the corner. I’m not in a position to think about this things. As it stands, my journey doesn’t have much of a future at all.

Delivering consistent results is like oxygen for us as Managers. Each of us should have at our disposal, an operating system for achieving the results our organizations need from us. A system that helps us set a course, move people along that course, and measure our progress (so we know if we’re actually on course). When this system is in place, and working, we get the freedom to look out and around.

What does that system look like? It’s a system for setting at least one really clear, really specific, really measurable goal. It’s a system for keeping that goal alive within your department – for making sure people know what it is, and for moving them toward it. It means having a system for people to measure their own progress toward the goal, and a system for address the situation when we’re off track. This probably doesn’t sound very complicated, does it?

And yet…61% of us are not doing it.

It’s not popular to talk about the importance of results. The very concept is being more and more marginalized because corporately, somehow we think striving for results is incongruent with taking care of our people. But is isn’t. The biggest part of putting people first, is about creating clarity. Clarity about where you’re going as an organization. Clarity around what results matter in their roles. Clarity around whether they are making progress toward those results.

Taking good care of our people, starts with having a system in place for delivering consistent results. If we truly want to run people-first organizations, we need to equip our managers with an operating system. A system for 1) setting the course, 2) moving people along that course and 3) measuring and communicating progress.

This is what bridges the gap between strategy and execution.


The Skillful Manager Program develops exceptional Managers: Managers who Deliver Consistent Results. Managers who Nurture Key Relationships. Managers who Drive Strategic Growth. You can learn more about our training programs here.

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