Welcome our guest thought leader: Tim Ohai is a leading growth consultant. He is the Founder and Principal of Kupu Solutions, and previously served as Global Director of Sales Effectiveness for Workday and other sales enablement roles at Shell Oil and Pennzoil. Connect with him and follow his wisdom here. And catch his latest podcast season of How to NOT Execute Your Strategy (and what to do about it) for more.
The goal is simple: execute the revenue strategy.
Well, as the old adage says, it is easier said than done.
As leaders, we do everything we can to make sure that the strategy is clear. We do everything we can to make sure that strategy is understood. And we do everything that we can to make sure that strategy is launched successfully.
But once the revenue strategy launches, why is execution such a roll of the dice?
Allow me to let you in on a poorly-known secret … execution has nothing to do with the plan.
Do plans matter? Absolutely. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”
But as I described in my previous post, the execution of our revenue strategies rely on too many variables than any single plan can account for. There is no way for one plan to cover every stakeholder, every dependency, every obstacle, and every change that will be involved as the revenue strategy implements over time. Factor in the idea that our customers have their own strategies to implement — with their own stakeholders / dependencies / obstacles / changes — and we wind up with an incredibly complex scenario that plans cannot manage.
WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE STRATEGIC PLAN?
Decision-making holds greater weight over your strategic plan. More specifically, making decisions in the moment as the strategy is being executed will influence your ultimate success.
If you know Henry Mintzberg, you know that strategy is ultimately a decision-making discipline. More succinctly, the decisions that are made in the pursuit of a targeted outcome is the real strategy. Therefore, strategic execution is the discipline of setting up and enabling great decision-making, the discipline of eliminating the triggers for poor decision-making.
So, what is the most common trigger for poor decision-making (and thus poor execution)? A lack of clarity.
As you have likely experienced yourself, a lack of clarity can show up in many ways. No clear goals, no clear priorities, no clear roles. Or as more commonly experienced, competing goals, competing priorities, and competing roles. Then there are components like processes, systems, and old-fashioned interpersonal dynamics that produce chaos. It’s no wonder poor decision-making occurs. All of these factors, left unchecked, become a breeding ground for poor decision-making — and poor execution.
INSTILL CLARITY FROM THE START
The good news is that a lack of clarity is a relatively easy problem to address. Start with establishing goal clarity. What does success look like? I recommend defining the goal with the following three parts:
- The targeted outcome(s): What is the specific objective that the strategy is asking for? There may be more than one objective, but be cautious with adding too many targets to hit.
- The metrics that will be used: How will we know if the outcome has successfully been achieved? This should be a solid combination of both leading and lagging indicators. And again be cautious using too many metrics.(Side note: Far too often, metrics are confused with the outcome. The goal of “10% revenue growth” is a metric, not an outcome. Define the outcome — like launching a new product line — so that revenue growth measures how well the launch did.)
- The requirements that must be included/addressed: What expectations must be met in the pursuit of the outcome? This can include timelines, stakeholders to involve, budget concerns, etc. The caution here is to make sure it is all on the table up front so that people are not blindsided by unexpected expectations.
The key is to get everyone on the same page for all three of these parts. In other words, everyone involved should be pursuing the same outcome(s), using the same metrics, and meeting the same requirements. Do this and the resulting clarity will “magically” clean up so much of the poor decision-making that is generating poor execution. Prioritization and role clarity can be addressed. Resources (like budget and staff) get appropriately assigned. Processes naturally align. And interpersonal clashes organically go away.
PUT YOUR STRATEGY TO THE TEST
Do you want to test the clarity of your revenue strategy? Ask your stakeholders to define what success looks like for your revenue strategy. Do they give you an aligned definition of outcome(s), metrics and requirements? If yes, celebrate because you are ahead of the rest of your peers. You can eagerly look forward to the next article in this series.
If not, this is exactly where you need to begin. While you’re at it, consider giving the Mereo Solution Management Expert Workbook a read.
AN EXTRA BONUS: PAYING IT FORWARD
It’s likely that the majority of your customers need some sort of help in creating their own clarity. When you and your sales team talk with them, you can generate credibility and trust by helping them get clear on what their own success looks like. Ask them questions like:
- Do they have an aligned definition of outcome(s), metrics and requirements?
- Would they like help in getting that?
- Can you introduce them to some of your other customers who are dealing with the same challenges?
- Would they find value if you shared how you and your company helped others create clarity?
- The conversation can be incredibly empowering for everyone involved. And it is far more relevant than talking about features and benefits.
With that said, I offer one final caution: Be careful trying to create clarity with customers if you and your team have not already done your own work in this area. In other words, if we cannot do this for ourselves, how can we expect to do this with our customers?