This month's issue: Strategy and Execution
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Simple. Powerful. Elegant.

A Newsletter from Creative Ventures

Issue #101

Welcome to the brand new format for our monthly newsletter! After over 100 issues of the Creative Ventures FLASH we have shifted to an idea and action plan layout. Team member Dr. Jim Hengstenberg suggested the change and helped with key suggestions. Colin did the design work to simplify the presentation. First, we present the idea. Second, we bring actionable steps to engage the idea. Third, we still give you some interesting news stuff. We hope you like the design and that our ideas continue to create value for you and your teams!



If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done. 

-Bruce Lee

Here are a couple of startling facts from studies done by Dr. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton from the Harvard Business School, and another from the guys at consultancy company Ernst & Young around the ability of companies to execute their strategies:
  • 9 out of 10 companies consistently fail to execute their strategies.
  • 25% fail to link incentives to their strategy.
  • Only 5% of strategic plan participants understand the plan.
  • 85% of all sales teams spend less than one hour a month on their plans.
  • 66% of companies in the study have no systemic approach around communication plans connected to their goal structures.
OUCH!  What the heck?  With results like this it’s a wonder companies spend any time on actual strategic thinking and planning.  Thinking should lead to action.  Strategy is worthless without good execution.  We see this problem in almost all the strategic work we do with our clients. So, are there answers out there? Yes! It’s about focus, alignment, and communication.  It’s about simplicity and accountability.  It’s about doing, execution, and accomplishment…and a commitment to focus on outcome.
Strategy is about thinking.  It’s about a balance between the classic four methods of thinking: critical, strategic, creative, and intuitive.  These are mostly objective elements,   but execution is about leadership, and leadership may be the most studied, subjective topic in all of history.
Not every company finds itself in the throes of these studies.  Some companies specialize in getting things done.  They seem to have built a bridge between strategy and execution.

  • Nike’s Innovation Kitchen - Behind the walls of this rather secretive division is where Nike’s strategy becomes reality.  Following their cultural pathway they move ideas to working models, working models to modified product, and modified product to product launch.  A three-part process of execution.  From the Fuel Band (when CEO Mark Palmer saw the prototype he said, “Make this NOW!”) to the revolutionary Flyknit material that will change the face of how athletic shoes are made, their revenue rises every year.  In 2013 they did $24 billion.  Results are all about a leadership commitment to getting things done and holding those accountable for an end product.
  • Margaritaville Holdings - Yep, beach bum Jimmy Buffett’s company is a great study in strategy execution.  Buffett’s ideas and strategies form a conga line dancing the steps of a profitable melody.  It would take an entire article just to name the various business units that were spawned from a simple 208 word, three chord song.  Clothing, restaurants, casinos, record labels, best-selling novels, concerts…the ideas reach to the horizon of your favorite ocean.  From idea to execution, Margaritaville Holdings attacks ONE idea at a time.  They examine it from every angle possible.  They study how it fits in the culture, and once they give it a green light it gets done.  They measure and communicate like a finely-oiled machine.  Though privately held, it is estimated that Margaritaville has averaged about $150 million a year since 2007.
So, what can you do?  Here are a few action items.



Do This!

  • SIMPLE:  It’s ALWAYS about keeping it simple.  If your strategic plan revolves around 20 key goal structures, forget it.  Plans that have high execution success are simple, with few moving parts.  They are explainable, and the measurements don’t have 16 different metrics.  It takes discipline to make strategy simple, but there is a direct correlation between success and simpleSimple is about figuring out what is wildly important and designing strategy around it.  Not everything is WILDLY important. 
  • ALIGNMENT:  Successful accomplishment around goal structures falls apart when no one is paying attention to thepieces.  First, the goal structure needs to be culturally significant.  It needs to match what your company is all about.  The culture should act as a filter.  Pass your goals structure through your vision to make sure they match.  Next, involve those who will be executing the goals in the goal setting process.  Alignment gets destroyed by the idea of “buy in,” that goals can always be developed in a C-Suite vacuum.  Align the right metrics with the goal.  A 20-page measurement tool is not aligned with the element of simple.  Again, measure what’s wildly important, and be simple about it. 
  • COMMUNICATE:  Guess what? Communication is critical to execution.  Remember the study data? 85% of sales professionals spend less than an hour a month on their plans.  66% have NO real communication strategy or plan around goal execution.  If you want execution, you have to hold your teams accountable.  How do you connect accountability to simple and alignment? Through communication.   Create a flow of talking about what’s going on.  Huddle your execution teams together regularly…heck, do it DAILY.  If they are scattered to the four winds, do a morning call or skype.  Create the discipline so that these communication connections are about 5 minutes (it takes discipline).  Make the metrics visible.  People should be able to constantly see where things are.  Anson Dorrace, the winningest coach in NCAA history while coaching the University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, posted every metric on the walls of the locker room so each player knew exactly where she was in the team’s goal structure.  COMMUNICATE.


SUN VALLEY SERENADE:    Every year the who’s who of the entertainment, technology, and financial worlds gather in Sun Valley, Idaho for a meeting based on exclusivity and discretion.   Here bid deals are hatched and idea networks are created.  It’s a good idea that has leverage.  Opportunities for casual conversations often lead to break-out deals.  Can you find a way to bring together divergent people with different perspectives on “what’s going on?”   

THE POWER OF WHAT YOU KNOW:   More than a decade ago baseball’s iron man Cal Ripken retired from the game that he gave his life to.  In a 17-year career he never missed a game – NEVER.  He took that same work ethic to his “golden years.”  Always thinking ahead, Cal was prepared to step away from the game and give his new life a focus on what he knew,  baseball.  His privately-held company Ripken Baseball owns two youth-oriented complexes.   He created a partnership with Under Armour to sponsor baseball tournaments.  He has purchased three minor league teams, selling one for a sizable profit, created baseball-related endorsement deals with Kellogg’s, and has spent announcement time in the TBS booth.  Cal Ripken is a great example of the power that exists when you leverage what you know!

THE RED LIGHT’S ON:  Krispy Kreme fans know that when the red light is on, fresh donuts are rolling off the rack and you can get a freebie if you drop in.  But donuts are not really part of the health culture (though they are really delicious), so CEO Tony Thompson is looking for ways to leverage his company beyond the sugar high of those soft, sweet, and feathery creations.  He’s looking at introducing baked goods to replace some of the now fried treats.  They also recently signed an agreement with Green Mountain Coffee to create Krispy Kreme K-Cup packs for the Keurig machines.  Maybe there’s a space beyond breakfast?  The idea is that no one is coming to Krispy Kreme to buy a salad, but by giving his company a constant creative overview, new opportunities could be just around the idea corner.  How about your company?  Your life?
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