At Rhythm Systems, our core purpose is helping organizations and individuals achieve their dreams and goals. We have a software platform and expert consultants, and we’ve spent a lot of time developing best practices around the right habits to achieve success. However, over the years we’ve learned something critical: you can have all the right strategies, goals, and meeting rhythms to do the work, but if you have the wrong people—or a culture that rewards the wrong behaviors—you will still not reach your potential as a company.
Laying the right habits on top of the wrong culture is a recipe for disaster. If your team isn’t ready, willing and eager for stronger accountability and improved results, your efforts to establish stronger execution habits could be in vain. You may see sandbagging, reluctance to participate, and ultimately failure and return to status quo.
In our consulting practice, we talk a lot about creating “execution-ready” plans, and we help our clients create focused execution plans with well-defined goals that align to longer term strategy and financial goals for the company, clear success criteria, start and end dates, owners, and detailed project plans to achieve success. In order for these execution-ready plans to have their best chance at coming to fruition, they should be paired with execution-ready organizational cultures.
Here are some red flags that your company may not be ready to execute as a high performance organization:
- You hear a lot of blame and finger-pointing when things don’t go according to plan.
- People are afraid to speak up when there’s a problem.
- Leaders are not willing to make changes but expect their reports to change.
- People are running from fire to fire and have little time to stop and think or develop new skills for the future.
- Compensation is not tied to meaningful performance, or it is perceived to be unfair.
Here’s what an execution-ready culture looks like:
- Core Strategy Alive & Well: The key elements of your core strategy have a tremendous impact on your organization’s culture. Thinking carefully about the company’s Core Purpose, Core Values, and BHAG or long-term visionary goal is critical. Companies that define their strategy and are intentional about using the strategy to make decisions and run the company set the stage for success.
- Willing to Make Hard People Decisions: To have an execution-ready culture, you have to be willing to fire poor performers, and you have to be willing to let go of people who do not adhere to your Core Values, even if they are top performers. You have to commit to both values and results and be willing to make tough calls and have difficult conversations.
- Creates Safety and Encourages Collaboration: Leaders have to model the behaviors they want to see, and they have to show that it is OK to take risks and make mistakes. The culture must create the opportunity for people to raise a hand when they need help, and have processes in place to ensure teams can collaborate and coach each other when help is needed.
- Fosters Personal Accountability: The team has to know that they own their own results. They need to be clear about what’s expected of them and have the skills, training, and resources available to achieve success. Again, they need to know that it is OK to ask for help when needed and they need to understand and take responsibility for the consequences of not achieving their goals.
- Considers Change Management: Strategy execution requires the team to change and grow—to act differently. To cultivate a culture that embraces change, managing the human reaction to change can’t be an afterthought. You need to consider how the changes you are making will impact people and have an intentional strategy for communication and adoption of new processes, habits, systems, and goals.
- Provide Continuous Feedback: Cultures that rely on backward looking performance reviews are at a disadvantage when it comes to strong execution. To be more agile and make performance adjustments in real time, you need continuous feedback. People should always know where they stand related to their most important goals and outcomes.
- Make Results Visible: Transparency around results is another key component of success. Having dashboards where everyone can see the goals and the progress towards those goals helps teams keep each other accountable to getting it done and helps identify who needs help with what. If your team is afraid to share their goals and their status on those goals, you have more work to do on creating safety in your culture.
When you have these pieces in place, you are ready to layer on effective execution habits—annual and quarterly execution planning, cascading, weekly adjustment meetings, daily huddles, etc.—to get the work done. The work of building an execution-ready culture isn’t linear, though. It’s an iterative process. Tackling people issues and getting some of the negativity and resistance out of your culture can be important to do first, but it is also something you’ll have to do all the time. Getting the right execution habits down will help strengthen your culture. You have to have all three—strategy, execution, and culture—to be successful in the end.
Interested in learning more about culture?
Check out these additional resources:
Photo Credit: iStock Getty Images
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images