Driving Strategic Change by Focusing on Fundamentals

Brass Chess Pieces CloseupToday’s post is by James M. Kerr, author of The Executive Checklist – A Guide to Setting Direction and Managing Change (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

How does a company position itself to respond to the changes that the era of business globalization holds in store? Certainly, we can attempt to define the next “big thing” in strategy development. But, if we fail in our attempt, and most of the time such attempts fail, we will not deliver the value that stockholders seek. Instead, why not return focus to the fundamentals, much like a slumping athlete would when trying to return to world-class form?

By embracing what might be called a “Simply to Win Philosophy” that focuses attention on sound fundamentals, businesses can begin to introduce new, and extend existing programs, that position them to be nimble and quick, while still growing and evolving into broad-reaching and highly profitable organizations.

From my perspective, there are five essential areas of focus:

1. Strategic Planning – You need a vision and a plan to get there. Planning should be active and managed and maintained on a daily basis;

2. Employee Engagement – The people responsible for delivering products and services to the marketplace must be engaged and involved in the work of the organization. Deliberate effort must be expended to inspire and gain their commitment to success.

3. Transparent Communications – Communications channels and devices must be designed and available that allows stakeholders, from both within the enterprise and outside of it, to get accurate and timely information;

4. Continuous Transformation – Improving the way work is done is never “once and done.” A transformation program aimed at continuous improvement is needed to enhance product and service development and delivery to an ever discerning customer-base;

5. IT Alignment – Information Technology should be leveraged to the highest degree possible. However, it must be aligned with the business strategies of the enterprise – automation for automation’s sake is not a winning formula.

A “Re-Imagined Business” Can Result

Focusing on the fundamentals, as suggested above, can result in a re-imagined business – one that is flatter, team-based and better positioned to stamp out the lethargy and sluggishness that often seeps into a more traditional, bureaucratic culture.

Further, well run businesses, ones that flawlessly execute on the fundamentals, attract and retain the best personnel available in the marketplace. Talent can come in many forms, as well. Full-time career-oriented personnel will be attracted. So, will the burgeoning transient workforce that prefers the variety that freelancer work has to offer. Regardless, better staff leads to better results and arouses even more transformative action.

The Action Plan

Here are some steps to take to begin the business transformation:

Have a Dream: Create a vision that incorporates all of the core elements outlined above. Help your people understand it and be sure that it’s compelling. The vision must enable their enlistment in the work required to see each element through to implementation.

Actively Set Direction: Once the vision is out there, be sure to develop a strategic plan to achieve it. Include the programs described here as the cornerstones of the plan. They serve as the foundation for change and must be recognized as strategic objectives.

Communicate Early and Often: It is important to continue to promote a call to action once the programs for change are in motion. Communicate expectations, desired outcomes and progress as each program evolves over time.

Become Involved: Play a role in some of the change efforts. Demonstrate commitment to each effort by sponsorship and coaching as the organization becomes more engaged and transparent.

Don’t Tolerate Poor Leadership: Be sure that the entire leadership team from executives all the way down to unit supervisors are practicing the behaviors that you want the organization to possess. Don’t tolerate managers who are not walking the talk.

Make No Excuses: Take responsibility for all change. If things aren’t moving in the direction that you want, do something about it. If things aren’t moving fast enough, then set a quicker pace. Make no excuses, but, work to make a difference.

Preparing for the Future

The marketplace rewards speed and agility. Nothing is more important than ensuring that the re-imagined organization is remodeled to be a solid expressway to the future – one paved with the stability that comes with a strong foundation built on solid business fundamentals, including deliberate planning, inspired staff, transparent communications, continuous improvement and IT alignment.

The Executive Checklist by James KerrJames M. Kerr, a partner at BlumShapiro Consulting, is an author, lecturer, organizational behaviorist and well-respected management consultant specializing in strategy formulation and corporate transformation.  His most recent book, The Executive Checklist – A Guide to Setting Direction and Managing Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) is available in stores, now (CLICK HERE to get your copy).  He can be reached at

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