For any plan, initiative, or strategy to be successful, every leadership team must have a set of clear priorities in place to make it happen. Most leadership teams though are not very good at this. In fact, a recent survey found that 64% of executives say that they have too many conflicting priorities. Having a plan and aligned priorities that support the growth agenda for the business creates a common view of the goal and the path to reaching it. Hear are six things you should keep in mind when setting priorities for your business.
1. Alignment means having a clear picture
Oftentimes there are varying opinions of what strategy is the right one, how to execute it, and who should be doing what and when. While it’s good to have an organization that is thoughtful and repeats the words of a strategy, it is a significant difference to know what it means. Without alignment on what the challenge is and how to solve it, there is no alignment on priorities or what defines success.
What to do: Begin any strategic process by getting everyone on the same page – define your guiding light, your “north star.” Be open to pushback, hear what other stakeholders think, and work together to create the vision that best supports your company.
2. Prioritize what will propel you forward
People become invested in the priorities they or their departments will ultimately be held accountable to deliver – but not everything will make the list. Sometimes this causes people to be a little myopic of the bigger picture and executives to over-prioritize. To avoid this, all team members must “own the whole” before their piece and focus on what is mission critical for the whole enterprise.
What to do: Make sure the owners of low or omitted priorities understand the logic behind the decision – the why. Take time to help everyone involved understand the big-picture goal and how they are going to help achieve it, so they can feel connected to what’s most important.
3. Create the right pace and sequence for the future
Not all priorities are created equal. It can be challenging to strike the right balance of what’s important, and what each priority will deliver for the business. The right balance is a combination of two critical factors. The first is the pace and sequence of priorities and the second is knowing how to balance the near-term and long-term priorities.
What to do: Step back and take a hard look at your priorities to understand what purpose each serves. Think about creating a healthy balance of priorities across three buckets:
- Run your business better today
- Build capability for tomorrow’s business
- Growth bets for the future
4. Communicate so priorities resonate
Many leaders make the mistake of revealing strategies and priorities in language that may work in the boardroom but that doesn’t resonate with the troops. If people can’t relate their jobs to what you’re saying the company needs or what they can do to help, they will automatically disconnect.
What to do: Make your managers the meaning-makers. They have the power to link their teams to company priorities in a realistic and meaningful way. Arm them to translate strategic business speak into the language of the people doing work around them – making priorities accessible and understandable in the context of daily work activities.
5. Set in-process milestones
Some people understand the rhetoric behind priorities but give up when the desired end result isn’t achieved right away. It is vital to set “in-process” milestones for people to see if they are “on track” or “off track” to take corrective action.
What to do: Talk about what success looks like to you. Communicate to reinforce the belief in your collective ability to achieve the goal with in-process milestones and metrics.
6. Celebrate early wins and rapidly scale to other areas
Regardless of how hard you try, many people still sit back and wait for someone else to go first in creating new mission-critical priorities. It is essential to create momentum, and even a movement, by celebrating early successes and scaling the drivers of this success to other areas.
What to do: Establish a mindset of challenging the status quo, running a rapid experiment and capturing the learnings of successes or failure as the way to accelerate new action for priority execution.
All good business people know that any process related to executing a strategy around set priorities comes with challenges. Once you know what the challenges are, you can effectively plan to take each one of them down. With alignment, priorities that speak to all involved, and a vision for success, you can reach your goal.
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