1. Focus on a few, big priorities. Dave Packard, co-founder of computer giant Hewlett Packard once said, “More organisations die of indigestion than starvation.” In other words, business leaders try to do too much at once, lose focus and become irrelevant. For each avenue pursued, energy and pace is dissipated. Pushing hard on a few fronts, not pushing a little on many fronts, is the key to making substantial and rapid strategic progress.
  2. Ensure the program leader has the right capabilities for the job. Some skills will be specific to the technical nature of the work at hand, but there are also some generic capabilities that are essential to this role. These key management skills are: the program leader must be a great communicator and networker, and have strong influencing skills; he or she must be highly organized and able to manage multiple streams of work; and, lastly, the program leader needs to have high self-esteem and demonstrate discipline and persistence.
  3. Always take a cross-functional approach. Few, if any, initiatives that will drive real growth can be delivered through a single function. Ensure that people from across the organization staff your program teams, so that potential issues and obstacles can be spotted and tackled early and that a broader view of the initiative’s potential benefits is taken.
  4. Create urgency and pace from the get go. Pace is essential to the successful delivery of change projects, and you must set the standard in the way you behave and make decisions and in the demands you make of your program teams.
  5. Focus on results. It’s not enough for the program team to deliver the agree actions if it doesn’t produce the results. You must ensure that it is the program’s results that people are focused on and not the process. This means that you must have clarity on the business benefits you want the program to deliver.
  6. Wherever possible, start small and learn fast. Some programs demand major changes from the start. Building a new central distribution centre, for example, demands that you make the full investment up-front. Many initiatives do not have to be managed in this way, however. New product development, improvements to customer service, most process changes and better ways of working can all be delivered by making use of prototypes, trials and rapid testing.
  7. Communicate the initiative’s importance but avoid big stage-managed presentation announcements. Rather than having big set-piece events and strategy ‘launches’, you are far better off letting people know what’s happening and why it’s important, and then rapidly and regularly feeding back to them the results and improvements that the business is delivering. People will believe results over promises every day of the week, and it is the results that you achieve that will sway any doubters you might have.
  8. Integrate the initiative’s plans with relevant operating plans. I am always puzzled by the distinction that some managers seem to make between ‘strategic growth initiatives’ and ‘the day job’. Part of everyone’s day job is delivering the company’s agreed growth strategy. But this will only happen if your managers’ and their teams’ are properly aligned with the strategy.
  9. Have a direct line of communication with the program team and the CEO. As with your line teams, it is essential that you have access to the teams delivering your major change initiatives. And even more importantly, that they have access to you. Even where you set up executive sponsors to lead the work on behalf of your top team, there are times when only the CEO can make the difference.
  10. Ensure the growth initiative has an end date. There are few things sadder in the corporate world than a program team’s office five years on from the program’s launch. Don’t let failing projects clutter your organisation. Be ruthless to ensure your focus is on the things most likely to drive growth.

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.