How to stop Firefighting to deliver the Business Strategy
Frequently during Natural Talent’s Executive Coaching Programmes we are asked to assist senior managers in developing and implementing the strategic vision or business plan, whilst they attempt to escape ‘firefighting’ mode.
In previous posts we have identified the 10 tips to managing a heavy workload and how to improve organizational performance. But with ‘firefighting’ mode being so demanding and destructive, what else can senior managers do to get out of ‘doing’ in order to be able to work ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ it?
Many global organizations have failed due to their inability to identify changing requirements in the market and their subsequent neglect to innovate and diversify accordingly. Ring-fencing strategic planning and thinking time is one of the most successful ways executives can ensure strategy implementation and alignment. The fastest growing companies hold very regular strategy meetings or off-sites to review the vision and direction the company is heading by analysing competitor, customer and product/service data, as well as the usual more ‘operational’ financials.
To ensure teams are also aligned with the key business goals and development plans, all team meetings should adhere to an agenda, which also includes strategic objectives and doesn’t focus solely on operational updates; any relevant operational data should be emailed in advance.
All Meetings should be short but ought to include agenda items to highlight information on any potential impact of economic, political or technological changes in order to guarantee that the company remains agile in this increasingly VUCA world. Trends and opportunities to diversity and any pitfalls to avoid should also be spotted in order to align the business strategy with customer requirements.
Limiting focus to 5 or 6 key priorities is proven to assist executives in concentrating on Quadrant 2 (Important not Urgent) of Stephen Covey’s Time Management grid. Their associated, prioritized ‘To Do’ list should be aligned with this, setting regular milestones and reviewing progress. Anything else should be deleted, delegated or deferred.
In the age of 24/7 connectivity executives are often expected to respond to emails almost immediately; deciding what is ‘Important’ not ‘Urgent’ applies to emails, just as much as to other work priorities. Becoming reactive to emails is one of the biggest killers of strategy execution, so mastering the Inbox is another key to achieving strategic objectives.
In addition, picking which battles to fight and which fires to delegate, as well as deciding quickly on small matters and managing poor performance swiftly and effectively, will all help in ensuring executives are able to focus on delivering key business objectives.
As another year-end approaches, the organizations which succeed will be those whose leaders were able to look over the parapets and keep an eye on the dynamic horizon.