… is discipline. Sure, being human, having vision, empathy, clarity, and so on – all of these are essential.
But the place I’ve seen more SMEs fail to live up to their potential is a lack of discipline.
Simply not doing what they say they’re going to do.
I recently worked with a number of MDs within a group company on executing a strategy. The industries varied from manufacturing, services, fashion and others.
And to date, they were the most impressive group I’ve worked with to get strategy done.
Initially I thought that perhaps this had worked well because they didn’t have the overly analytical tendencies of the consultancies I usually work with – we consultants are thinkers, and we have a tendency to analyse to minutiae. This group were certainly intellectually up there, but they ran companies and P&LS, and were more in the habit of just getting on with it and getting stuff done.
That may have been a part of it.
But I suspect the bigger part was that they were all MDs – and if you run a business, if you’re its managing director or CEO, you’ve usually got there because you tend to do what you say you’re going to do.
Within leadership teams, the picture has been more variable. Some members of the team get through things, others don’t. The MDs within the team usually do. Those who get that their role is to work at a strategic scale also do.
But some others seem to always have a ready reason for not making strategy happen. Production issue, project issue, client urgent response, people issue, etc.
Don’t get me wrong – these things happen, and can throw the best of us off for periods. But when the pattern is that this is always happening, then it’s not about production, projects, clients or people.
It’s almost always about discipline. For one of any number of reasons (some of my other posts!), they don’t get what they’re committing to get done, done.
And usually in the end, once they’ve exhausted all the production, project, client or people reasons, it becomes that “the strategy process doesn’t work”.
… except that it does for their colleagues with discipline.
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