To Overcome The "Day Job" Problem
The response I
most commonly hear from middle managers to the launch of a new
strategic programme is, "But
I've got a day job to do as well, you know!" As a
result, the commitment they give to the programme can be patchy, at
best. Without strong and effective leadership, many of these
initiatives can spin their wheels and fail to achieve their
As a leader of
your organisation, one of your key tasks is to break down your
strategic goals into projects and actions that can be delivered by
your organisation. This means overcoming the 'day job' problem. Here
are five ways you can make that happen:
Involve your middle managers in the development of your strategy.
When I worked with Bristan, the UK's leading taps and showers
business, the CEO and I led a group of 45 managers in the development
of the group's strategy. The energy, creativity and commitment that
was generated by broad and genuine involvement helped overcome any
reticence to implementing the agreed initiatives.
Translate corporate objectives into personal objectives.
At Bristan, the management team moved quickly to create what the CEO
called its 'leadership agenda'. In essence, the agenda was a set of
performance goals that were broken down into more focused objectives
for specific managers. It is essential that your corporate goals and
objectives are similarly translated into personal targets, so that
accountabilities are made clear and that your strategy is aligned
with your operations.
3. Focus on bottom-up, not
top-down solutions. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once
said that his company were "fixed
on the vision, but flexible on the journey."
Likewise, you should be fixed on the what - the goals and objectives
for your business - but flexible on the how - the specific
initiatives that will deliver your aspirations. All too often, senior
executive teams follow a strategic review by setting up major
transformational projects, but these major programmes fail to engage
effectively with the operating teams. It is far better to work the
other way round and to give your operating teams the challenge of
finding ways to achieve the performance objectives you have set. This
bottom-up approach not only delivers greater engagement and
alignment, but can also lead to solutions that were simply not
apparent to those higher up the hierarchy.
4. Appoint a
"Baumeister". In my book, The CEO's Strategy Handbook,
Hugo Reissner, the former CEO of CBR, a $750 million German fashion
retailer, focused on the need to have someone focusing on the connection
between the high-level strategy and the detailed, daily operations.
Here's what Hugo said: "By
training I am an architect. Between an architect and the craftsmen
who will build the final structure that the architect designs is the
building contractor. The building contractor - 'Baumeister' in German
- has a pivotal role to play. In particular, he works out the best
way to realise the architect's vision on the ground. This means that
he must understand and appreciate the architect's vision and concept,
but must also be able to relate to and communicate with the
specialists who will actually build the structure. It is the same
with strategy. There is a key role for someone to work with the
agreed ideas and work out how best they can be delivered."
Keep your communication two-way. Communication
isn't so much about the big conventions and set-piece events, it's
about the corridor conversations and one-to-one meetings you have,
whether it's in your office or on the front-line. More importantly,
it's not even driven by what you say, but by what people across the
business say about you. You need to keep communicating your strategy,
but you should do this through conversations not monologues, and that
means listening - and responding to what you hear - as much
of these five approaches do you use and what has worked for you in
avoiding the problem of the 'day job'?