How to Connect Strategy and Execution to Achieve Mission Success
All successful planning sessions result in Inspired Alignment among the team. But Inspired Alignment gets lost and the time you spent planning is wasted if you cannot effectively connect strategy and execution. This is a fact we all know, but it is not something we always accomplish.
In this webinar, David “Finch” Guenthner walks through the key techniques of connecting your vision and strategy to successful mission execution.
How can you connect your strategic vision, your strategic goals, the things you want to accomplish way out in the future, to the tactical level execution that you must do every day?
You are likely familiar with the Flawless Execution model – a model that was born and bred in the zero tolerance for error world of combat aviation. At the heart of the model is the Flawless Execution Cycle of Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief. Today, we are focusing on the execution piece of the cycle. Execution is the longest phase of the Flawless Execution Cycle and has the most opportunities for errors. Here are the key steps to prevent these errors.
Why do we need disciplined execution?
To keep our missions on track! You may have a grandiose vision of where you want your organization to be but if you don’t tie it to the tactical level execution, you’re operating in the clouds – it’s not possible. If you are acting and working just for work-sake without having a vision and direction of where you’re going then you are working with no direction or alignment. It is not enough just to have great ideas, it is not enough just to have that strategic view. You must have disciplined execution to achieve the vision you set out to achieve.
Keys to Execution
- Execution Rhythm
- Start with “WHY”
- Communicate the Scoreboard
- “Two Week” Test
Execution Rhythm is a critical component of the planning phase. If you leave the planning session and you have not established an execution cadence, your plan is destined to fail. You must have accountable, check-in meetings scheduled to stay on task and hold each other accountable. In Flawless Execution, this is done with the X-Gap. The X-Gap is a meeting to transfer knowledge among your team. The X-Gap is quick, 15 minutes or less, and they are leader-lead. There should be no surprises for the leader during this meeting. The goal is to increase transparency among team members and communicate any pop-up threats. If a pivot in the plan is necessary, the X-Gap is where it is decided upon as a team.
Start with “Why” is the most important component of maintaining disciplined execution. Simon Sinek said it well and we in the Air Force have been doing this for over 50 years. The most important part of any mission is Strategic Alignment. By creating strategic alignment at the beginning of every X-Gap you are creating a sense of purpose and urgency among the team. What happens if we don’t achieve our goals or do nothing at all? This is the kind of alignment that brings the team together and reinforces the mission objective.
Communicate the Scoreboard up front to create transparency and clarity among your team. Imagine playing a game or sport without a scoreboard. It would be difficult or even impossible to tell where you are in your plan and what you need to accomplish to get to the next step. The “scoreboard” or metrics you are evaluating must be clear (where you are and where you need to go), measurable, and achievable so that the team is all aligned and believes the mission can be accomplished.
“Two Weeks” Test. Detractors and resistors will emerge within the first two weeks after the planning phase. Teams get a “planning high” during the in-person planning phase. This is great because they are motivated and excited to go out and achieve the goals and objectives. But when you walk out pf the planning session, real life happens. You and your team have other responsibilities at work and in your personal life. There is a short window of opportunity to take advantage of the strategic alignment that has been created. As the leader, it is your job to keep the team motivated and aligned.
The Execution phase is not simple but with these key techniques, you will keep your team motivated and connect the Inspired Alignment to Disciplined Execution. The X-Gap is your opportunity to transfer knowledge and assure everyone on the team gets their information out and communicates any necessary pivots or adaptations to the plan. If you always start with “Why”, that strategic alignment, the pie in the sky view of what we are trying to achieve, your team will understand why the little steps we are taking today are so incredibly important to mission success.
Communicate the scoreboard by clearly posting all metrics to make sure everyone on the team knows where we are towards achieving the common mission goals. Finally, your job as the leader is to keep your team motivated and aligned and to keep them on task.
If you’re a leader and you believe you can provide only a vision of a plan and that others will go out and execute the details, your plan is set up for failure. The beauty is in the details and the disciplined execution. The execution phase is the hard part – you need strong leaders to hold the team accountable, keep everyone aligned, and keep them motivated throughout the entire execution phase.
About the Speaker
David “Finch” Guenthner, a former F-16 pilot, has Flawlessly Executed 80 combat missions and was awarded 4 Air Medals for his actions. In addition to his service, Finch provides world-class consulting services to Fortune 500 companies across the globe, helping them connect strategy to execution to achieve individual and team success.
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