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A Fine Balance—delivering on short term results and longer term growth

December 14. 2016

We often meet executive teams which are overly focused on delivering short term results at the expense of longer term growth. With the pressure senior executives receive from their boards and shareholders, this short term focus in not surprising. The only real success comes from delivering short term results while delivering long term growth for the business.

In our consulting practice, we regularly meet executives focusing all of their time on the short term operational management of the business. They stay close to the business and understand every issue and every detail of the operation. Usually, they don’t stop there. With this detailed knowledge, they become the operational problem solvers and before long all decisions big and small must be made by the senior executives. Operational managers, stop thinking and wait for direction from the top. The executive becomes indispensable and these managers become high priced coordinators.

This model may work in the short term, but after a while the executive is so focused on the details of the operation and takes focus off of the critical programmes and innovations to take the business to the next level. Operational managers no longer feel they have the authority to make decisions and wait for the next decisions to be made and stop driving the business.  Improvement programs don’t deliver on expectations, business velocity slows and results start to slip.

Here are 5 (plus 1) steps to support the balance of delivering on short term results and longer term growth.

  1. Structure the work to deliver the strategy—You have established the strategy and the business plan, now make sure you have put the right roles in place to do that work. Design the work so that executive roles are focused on growth and innovation and the middle management roles are focused and measured on the delivery of the current year’s plan and positioning the operations for the next year out. Each level should be differentiated from and add value to the level below.
  2. Ensure you have the right people in roles—Too often we see organizations where roles are built around people’s skills and interests versus role designed to deliver the strategy. Management needs to understand the work that is required and then place into role individuals who have the capability and interested to do that work.
  3. Ensure individuals and teams are focused on the right work—Designing the work is one thing but ensure roles doing the right work is something else. Start with ensuring individuals and teams understand their work and deliverables and then put the mechanisms to hold them to account to deliver the results. This starts at the top of the house and continues throughout the organization. If one leader is working too low in the organization then everyone in the down line is doing so as well.
  4. Give people the authority to make decisions—Too often we find that high priced executives must wait for approval every step along the way.  The business under-utilizes managers, and by default over pays them for the work they do. The solution is simple give people the decision making authorities necessary to do their jobs and deliver on their goals.
  5. Trust people and hold them to account—Providing people with clear roles and authorities frees them to do their best. Remember good organization structure is not boxes making up an organization chart. Good structure is the distribution of accountability and authority into roles to get work done. Lastly set up mechanism such as scorecards, and meetings to ensure work is on track or managers have a plan to get it on track.
  1. Prepare for succession—At first blush this point may not seem related to the first five it is often an outcome, particularly of point 4 “Give people the authority to make decisions.” When manager are not given the necessary authorities to execute their roles it is not possible for them to be ready for the next role. The business will have to go outside and miss the opportunity to promote from within.

Delivering on short term results and longer term growth is no accident. Success depends on ensuring there is a balance built into the work system, where the right people are focusing on doing the right work at the right time.

And please, contact us to let us know what you think…