Turning strategy into actions and outcomes

IN last week’s article I provided a scenario that helped to identify what was going wrong in a sample business, one where the company used to be quite a solid performer, but had seemed to lose its way.

Some of the key themes included: people in the business not having clear roles and responsibilities; no performance standards to work to; not understanding what the goals of the business are; and poor performance not being addressed. Unwillingness to clarify expectations based on employees’ experience by the manager, and pay not being linked to performance, also were apparent.

You and your organisation may have some of these issues in hand, and you may feel that personally you are doing alright in this area.

In their book Managing Performance Managing People, Ainsworth, Smith and Millership highlight the importance of this issue through a brief questionnaire adapted below to help demonstrate the point. Complete the questionnaire yourself, and ask your boss to complete it focusing on your job. Discuss the results and see if any gaps exist. Chances are there will be a difference in understanding in some areas, which can reveal how easy it can be to be working to a different set of expectations. You may wish to do the same with your staff to identify gaps in understanding.

These questions are about your job and your role. Do this from memory without referring to any form of records.

What are the four most important areas of focus in my role (in order of priority)?

What are the major outcomes required of my job?

What are the targets (qualitative and quantitative) that I am expected to achieve?

Who are the most important people for me to interact with?

Who are the people and resources of which that I have direct authority?

So far in the article series we have looked at a workplace scenario to help identify what you might see and hear going on to help in recognising the issues in your workplace.

The quick questionnaire highlights how, even with the best intentions, differences in expectations can exist, but helps you to make a start in understanding where you or your staff need to be focusing your efforts.

So how does this all fit together? It’s one thing to know that you and your boss/team need to be working on a common understanding of the right things, but what are the ‘right things’?

The right things will be different from one business to another, however here’s the ‘big picture’ on how the work of the organisation should get done.

At board level, the strategic positioning of the company is determined with input of the chief executive officer. The CEO/managing director defines the work of the organisation. In doing this, the CEO/MD sets the priorities of the organisation and translates them into major initiatives or undertakings of the company, while seeking to preserve and reinforce the strategic position.

They define the right outcomes as well. This defining, prioritising and translating activity is then displayed by the shaping of business units to produce what the company needs. Within these business units, roles are defined and the standards that must be achieved in the roles are also defined. People are then aligned to the roles based on the required talents, passion, values, competencies and experience/qualifications. These people are provided with a set of personal expectations they are required to meet.

Employee behaviour at work is then guided by feedback against expectations, organisational values, rewards and incentives, to drive it in the direction of company goals.

The business results in the areas of profit achievement, customer satisfaction, shareholder/investor returns, community respect, staff turnover and the like form the basis of important feedback and data for the board, which reviews this periodically (likely no less than quarterly) and continues to trim and adjust the focus and resources of the organisation through the CEO/MD.

So, what about the ‘smaller picture’ view and what can leaders do weekly, monthly, quarterly? What do some of the best in business do in this area? Next week the final in this three-part series will identify the key actions leaders take in ensuring that the ‘right work’ is getting done.

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