Maintaining Strategic Focus for the Long Term

In our last blog, we discussed the benefits of developing and maintaining an internal Vision for your company (Infosurv Insider). But for many companies, the real challenge is in the maintenance aspect. Especially in large companies, how do you keep everyone singing from the same song sheet?

Daily fire-fights, being project-focused, competing with other divisions for scarce resources, and other demands on everyone’s time and attention mean that it is easy to stop thinking like a single, unified company. Adam Bryant, writing in the New York Times, has these three strategies to maintain than singular vision:

  1. Create a ‘One Company’ Culture. Along with a strategic vision, and regular feedback from customers and the marketplace, executives, must use symbolism to reinforce the message of unity. Whether that means reorganizing company leadership to diminish the power of silos or rearranging workspaces to encourage collaboration, companies that embrace a visible change that becomes a daily reminder of the vision of the company and its leadership tends to keep their strategic focus. The symbolism in these investments speaks for itself.
  2. Simplify the Scoreboard. As they say, what gets measured, gets done. Leaders must make sure that metrics underscore, reinforce, and, yes, measure those elements that drive the unified strategic vision of the company. Adam Bryant cites a power example from Shivan S. Subramaniam, the chief executive of FM Global, about simplifying and focusing his company’s metrics: “We call them key result areas, or K.R.A.’s. We’re multinational — we’ve got 5,100 people, 1,800 of whom are engineers. We’re very analytical. But we have three K.R.A.’s, And everybody focuses on them. One is on profitability. One is on retention of existing clients. And one is on attracting new clients. That’s it. You can talk to people in San Francisco, Sydney or Singapore, and they’ll know what the three K.R.A.’s are. All of our incentive plans are designed around our K.R.A.’s, and every one of those K.R.A.’s is very transparent. Our employees know how we’re doing. And, most importantly, they understand them.”
  3. Communicate Relentlessly. As a leader, you probably will begin to feel like a broken record, endlessly repeating your mantra about strategic focus. None the less, keep at it. Your employees are not exposed to it enough. As humans, we want to belong to a tribe and, as a leader, you define the tribe for your employees. Bring the external vision to life with a simple message and then drive that message home again and again in communications to everyone in the company. You may want to modify and elaborate on your message because you are tired of hearing it, but it is important that you maintain consistency.

Whether you’re leading a start-up or changing the culture in a huge corporation, these tips should help you maintain your strategic focus. Essentially, it is up to the executive leaders to maintain that focus by bringing in the right information about customers and the market. Developing metrics, rewarding the right behavior, and communicating effectively, your tribe of employees will come along with you.

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