The difference between organizations at the top and those at the bottom is called
There are so many areas that organizations, divisions, departments and teams need to address to accomplish the objectives that lead to success that it can be both overwhelming and confusing. Unfortunately, the question is not what to work on first, but how to work on all of the issues both individually and as a system. Where, and how, does one start?
Sports as a Framework
The solution to this problem can be compared to a sports team. Sports teams excel when they nail five key elements: strategy, personnel, operational execution, results accountability, and team unity.
- The right strategy identifies what they are trying to accomplish and how they will make it happen
- The right personnel determine whether they have the right skills and if those skills can be improved
- The right behaviors of the players toward clear and aligned objectives makes implementing the strategy possible
- The right measurements ensure that players are engaged and accountable
- The right team chemistry and unity ensures that teams perform at a level beyond the sum of its parts
All organizations are no different than sports teams. If each team within the organization will address and focus on these five core elements, the likelihood of success will increase exponentially. These five essential areas are defined by the acronym SPORT. Let’s look at why each area is so important.
Problem: Does Your Organization Suffer From
Mismatched or Incorrect Strategies?
Organizations, like sports teams, need effective strategies to win! No matter how well a baseball team can run the bases, it wouldn’t win any football games. Likewise, ill-defined or inappropriate strategies will cause an organization to fail. Implementing the right strategy, often through a process of design, prototype, implement, and iterate, is critical.
Solution: Create the right strategies through
- First figure out what the organization wants to accomplish (mission
- Then figure out what the end state looks like (vision)
- Only then can we develop a strategy to accomplish the mission and vision
When an organization is crystal clear about what matters most, each team can align their objectives and activities to ensure the success of the entire organization. Just as in our example above about the baseball players playing football, we need to know what game we’re playing and how we plan to play it effectively.
Problem: Does Your Organization's Personnel & Skills
Match Its Strategy?
Does your organization have the personnel to accomplish its strategy? Think of a basketball team where every player is 5 foot 11 inches or shorter? Or a sales leader with retail skills whose company’s strategy is to sell through the internet and social media! The right players must match the strategy and vice versa.
Solution: Align Your Players to Your Organization's Strategy Through a:
Organizations must create a plan to acquire or develop their players with the appropriate skills and knowledge to execute against their strategy to accomplish the organization’s mission and vision. Such a plan could include:
- Appropriate acquisition efforts
- Leadership skill development
- Front line skill development
- Practice programs and outlines
- Transition programs to move employees up or out of the organization as appropriate
Problem: Does Your Organization Often Fail to
Execute on Its Strategies?
Strategy and players by themselves are not sufficient to win. A great story line in so many of our books and movies is the one where the underdog beats the more talented opponent. Think of the movie “Hoosiers.” How does the underdog win? Through better execution.
Solution: Ensure Goal Achievement Through a Methodology of
Organizations can ensure Operational Execution against its strategies by:
- Identifying the one or two most important gaps (objectives) that must be achieved if the organization’s strategy is going to be implemented
- Ensuring that all sub goals and initiatives support the top goals
- Identifying the key performance activities that ensure ongoing operational excellence, and
- Identifying the team and individual causal behaviors that lead to goal achievement
Identifying important gaps, key performance activities, and causal behaviors and linking them together will ensure that every member of every team understands how their day-to-day work impacts the strategic implementation of the organization’s top goals while maintaining excellence in its core business operations. An example from soccer might illustrate: if we are a defensive team that capitalizes on our opponents mistakes in order to score but we have high turnover measures, we need to close this gap. To do so, we need to understand what new behaviors we need to instill that will help us close this gap. Finally, we need to be able to do this while maintaining excellence in every other aspect of our game.
Problem: Does Your Organization Know If Its
Winning or Losing?
In many organizations results tracking and evaluation are missing, incomplete, or incoherent. Think of a team with a strong strategy, the right players, and solid execution, but with no means to tell if they are winning or losing. Few people can conceive a game of competition that has no score. Tracking results is critical for teams to know if they are winning or losing and be held accountable for their part in the outcome.
Solution: Measure Key Performance Activities Through:
Make Results Tracking clear and simple. Every team has to have a scoreboard to know if they are winning or losing. It is critical that appropriate measurements be found or created to track progress against closing important gaps, ensure that key performance activities stay within appropriate bounds, and make visible individual and team performance on needed behavior change. All of these “scores” need to be highly visible and simple to understand. Most of us would think it is obvious that no sports team will be effectively engaged if there is no score. Why would anyone care?
Problem: Do the Teams in Your Organization Function
At Their Highest Levels?
Think of the last time you were on or witnessed a team that performed far beyond the sum of its parts?
We can all think of teams that performed far beyond expectations.
But we can also all admit that such teams are rare. Most teams fail to function even at the level of the sum of their parts!
Perhaps the greatest indicator of whether a team will be able to perform at its highest level is whether team members feel safe enough to admit challenges and seek for help to improve. Perhaps the greatest tool for improvement is practice. But most players are unwilling to practice if it will expose their weaknesses in an environment of hostility or uncaring.
Create an environment of trust and development within teams to ensure that performance aligns with objectives and measurement.