Strategy and The Final Mile

In the cable industry, the final mile is connecting the cable system to customers’ homes.  It is the most costly part of the entire system, and in many ways the most important.  When implementing a business strategy, the ‘final mile’ is connecting the strategy to each individual’s objectives.  In many ways, it is the most important part of strategy implementation because unless you have people diligently working to achieve the strategic objectives, it won’t happen.  Yet in many companies, little is done to make this final connection.  Instead, the strategic plans get put in binders for senior managers, and those binders move from desktop to credenza to file cabinet, often not to be seen until the next planning session.
Some companies do a better job by writing articles for the company intranet, giving presentations and producing videos, but they don’t work well at making the final connection because they are general, one-way, and non-interactive.  So everyone is left with a bit more knowledge—they know what the program is, but their not connected.  It hasn’t changed their job or their focus so they go on doing what they’ve always done—which may or may not support the strategy.
So, what can you do to make the final connection?  The answer is a few very practical and important steps:
First you need a strategy that is clear and cogent (many aren’t.)  If I walked into your next senior executive meeting and asked everyone to write down your corporate strategy in 1-2 sentences what do you think would happen?  Would the responses be the same?
Second, the strategy needs to be communicated.  I know of three CEOs who thought their strategies were  too confidential to tell their organizations.  One has to wonder how they expected to achieve the strategy, and what is so confidential; after all, we’re not talking about the formula for Coca-Cola, or Apple’s next big thing.
Third, you need managers who understand the strategy, can articulate it simply and clearly, and have the skill and motivation to connect it to each individual’s objectives.  For example, “Here’s our corporate strategy, here’s what it means for our group, and let’s talk specifically about how your job needs to contribute to its success.”
Finally, you need managers who will reinforce the strategy on a regular basis by communicating it again and reviewing progress on a monthly or even weekly basis.
Connecting every one of your people to your strategy is the final mile.  It’s where the power is.  What is your process for the final mile?

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