In the 100-meter sprint, coaches regularly remind their runners to keep their eyes focused and maintain a straight path through the finish line. The primary reasons for this includes the fact that when running, many runners tend to veer slightly one way or the other. The bobbing of one’s head can slightly influence the leaning of the body, and the runner must work hard to keep his, or her, head steady, eyes focused on a point of reference.In the 100-meter sprint, coaches regularly remind their runners to keep their eyes focused and maintain a straight path through the finish line. The primary reasons for this includes the fact that when running, many runners tend to veer slightly one way or the other. The bobbing of one’s head can slightly influence the leaning of the body, and the runner must work hard to keep his, or her, head steady, eyes focused on a point of reference.
My suggestion for contractors and leaders might be stated similarly. When your company is undergoing strategic planning, plotting out the next three to five years of growth and development, keeping focused and straight, will your strategic effort be on track and in the right lane!
But what should our strategic efforts be focused on? Focus on WHAT? Just as important is to stay straight as you proceed to work on strategic plans. So, Straight to WHAT? Well, let’s explore both questions briefly.
In setting your strategic direction, you first need to identify three to five “Strategic Objectives.” Most often, your Strategic Objectives will address growth in market domination, improving our work processes, even moving to a more efficient software that will strengthen our finance to estimating to field accountability. It is in each strategic choice that clear statements should be written. Often, a team of leaders and workers are formed who will take a specific strategic objective and “flush it out,” putting a statement, create goals, and build action plans, all aimed at achieving the needed objective.
If you created a few strategic teams, it is important that they meet to collectively address the strategic objective. Because such objectives are often created at special Strategic Retreats, added team members to a specific Strategic Objective Team, will need to be educated and updated on the objective.
You will find it helpful, and important for the long-haul, if the team considers writing, or rewriting, the Strategic statement that was quickly developed during your strategic retreat. The original statement may not need an entire rewrite, but chances are that the Strategic Objective Team may want to make the statement more clear and accurate.
There is not only one “right way” to enhance a strategic statement, but it should reflect the team’s consensus that it provides direction and clarity. From the completed statement, don’t be afraid to add a few sub-points if it helps to clarify the statement. Remember, it is the Strategic Objective, this statement, that will help to keep the Strategic Objective Team focused, bringing them back to the team’s “lane,” when they have veered slightly left or right.
Now, let’s take on the “Straight to WHAT?” consideration. This may be a little more challenging. It is in moving the team along that you will want to create some measurements for completion. For example, let’s look at the following statement that was actually developed as a Strategic Objective.
Create individual accountability to reduce rework & call-backs
At first glance, this might suggest that just a lowering of rework and call-backs is proof alone that the company has achieved this strategic objective. Though no one would argue that a bona-fide reduction in rework and call-backs is very positive, does this single measurement alone confirm that our team was successful. Well, yes and no.
Yes, if we did realize less rework and call-backs. No, because this alone doesn’t prove that we have created individual accountability. So, the team, in order to remain “straight,” will greatly strengthen their efforts if they can map out a few targets, or goals, that will collectively bring more confidence that their Strategic Objective has been addressed completely.
To continue using this example, let me add a few more thoughts that might be entertaining discussion for this example. Thoughts such as:
- How do we create more accountability in existing workers?
- How can we “on-board” accountability in our newest and future workers?
- What reduction in rework and call-backs will allow us to celebrate?
- What current processes/systems need to be reviewed to determine their impact, good or bad, on our present rework and call-backs situation?
- Finally, the presence of rework and call-backs itself provides a measurement (of poor workmanship); what other measurements might we consider that address the improvement efforts needed?
Now, in some cases, the pure discussion of the questions, like those above, might generate some new thinking that can go far in assisting the team to arrive at some new solutions. And where some solutions may not change much, perhaps the new answers will come in the form of a measurement or slight re-alignment in a process.
It is in the “Straight to WHAT?” portion of your team’s movement that will require the most “heavy lifting.” It is here, where attention to detail, challenging the status quo or tradition, and making bold recommendations, that your Strategic Objective Teams will find some needed discussions and decision-making.
Keep your Strategic Objective Teams focused on these two items and you will greatly reduce the amount of confusion and frustration. As leaders, encourage the team to discuss further, looking in new and different areas, before committing too quickly to a solution or strategy. Remember, we are not interested in finding another Band-Aid, but instead, to find the best possible solution to achieving your Strategic Objectives.
In growing your company today, you will benefit greatly from engaging more of your leaders and workers. In fact, drawing on the brain power of your “Thoroughbred” employees can add much to taking your company higher and further. Making your company the preferred contractor and employer, can be greatly enhanced by applying the two recommendations presented in this article.
Good luck but more, work hard and keep it the two areas addressed in this writing. Remember, your future success may depend greatly on these efforts.
Brad Humphrey, The Contractor’s Best Friend