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Business & ICT Trends, Applied to Your Organisation

What’s the secret behind successfully implementing a strategy?

Posted on October 30th, 2012 by TimClaes

Defining a strategy is one thing, Implementing a strategy is something else! What ‘s the secret?

The answer itself is simple… it lies in the LITTLE THINGS. Executing the answer is a lot more difficult.

A lot of literature exists on defining strategies, which models to use to lay-out alternative business scenario’s and on frameworks to perform all kinds of SWOT analyses. A lot of literature event exist on simply defining what ‘strategy’ really means. A book I can recommend in this area is called ‘Strategy Safari’ (which was recommended to me by a professor from the Vlerick Business School, Marcus Alexander) . It gives you an interesting perspective on possible views on how to look towards ‘strategy’. Different schools of ‘strategy’ are explained. The poem of the 6 blind men who are trying to discribe how an elephant looks like is a very interesting metaphor. We all start from our own perception, depending on what we have experienced so far.

That’s probably also why so many books exist on this topic. Everyone has his own view. And most of them are all true. Even today a lot of lectures and courses are still given on ‘strategy management’, but all too often they primarily only focus on strategy definition. While the art of truely implementing a strategy is often forgotten. And that’s a shame, because here you can make the real difference. It seems to me that we all like to go to the drawing board with all kinds of models and frameworks, but as soon as we need to make our hands dirty, we suddenly forget that also in this area a whole set of best practices exist that can help us to get things done.

The only suggestion I often hear to tackle this is the magic word ‘change management’ (see other blog post). This is of course true, but it is not enough. Did you ever hear the expression: “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.”

 Nothing is more true in my opinion. If you really look for a successful implementation of your strategy, it needs to become embedded into your organizational culture. And that is easier said than done. Because you need continuously to pay attention to the desired behaviour. Every little thing counts. The devil is in the details, as they say. And in order to do so you need strong leadership at every level of your organization. You need the right energy in your organization!

Another important ingredient in order to successfully implement a strategy is operational excellence. You can have the right ‘energy’ in place, but is your organization agile enough to deliver on that strategy? Are your processes lean and mean enough? Or do you follow certain processes, because these are simply the ones you have in place and were always there in the past?

So to conclude… the secret behind successfully implementing a strategy is a combination of 3 things:

  1. Define your strategy. This is often the easiest part. 
  2. Engage the people. Understand the culture. Getting the right energy in place is upmost important
  3. Operational excellence. Don’t only do things right, make sure you do the right things. Agility

Change management is much overrated

Posted on August 1st, 2012 by TimClaes

Change Management is much overrated… but oh so important!


1. Overrated…

When you start digging into ‘change management’ literature, you will find multiple theories and many complex models on how to deal with change. It almost looks like experts want you to be afraid to start kicking off change management programs yourself. So that you hire them to deliver expensive consultancy services. Why make it so complex?

2. But so important…

We all know – by nature – that people are resistent to change and that a change management process takes time during which people go through different states of mind. On the other hand I’m also a strong believer of the statement: “Change is the only constant”. So we better find a way to deal with change in an effective and efficient way. It is not the strongest that succeed, but the one most responsive to change.

3. In practice… 2 easy guidelines!

First of all… communicate. Always communicate in a transparent, concise and respectful way about the progress you’re making. Secondly communicate on a regular basis in a timely fashion. People understand that change could have an impact on their daily tasks, but not knowing what will be coming is the worst fear for all. So on a regular basis people need to get updated. Getting out the right message is often limited in time in order to get the right involvement of people.

In practice I typically use the following 2 pictures to help me with change management challenges. The first picture makes a distinction between willing to change and the ability to change. Primarily you need to focus in your communication on WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) before you start explaining how you will be able to learn the new way of working.

The second picture I like to use is a kind of detailed communication plan where I try to consolidate all the different communication touch points over time to different groups of people in 1 easy overview – typically in line with the implementation methodology you use within your organization.



This helps me to remember when I should be communicating what kind of information to which target groups of people. You should try it yourself. You will see it is quite easy to adjust to your own needs. So no more expensive external consultancy needed!


First who, then what – It’s all about people!


No matter which initiative you want to start within your organization (or across organizations for that matter) first gather the people around you and only then start discussing the content. Because in the end it is all about people! And more especially about individuals that make a difference.

Each business and ICT Trend you want to apply to your organization needs to be carried out by people who believe in it, that are able to deliver it and that are actively supported by your organization.

But how do you recognize someone is fit for the job?

Three rules of thumb you can apply:

1. Listen to the passion of the person. How eager is the individual to be part of the plan? Is he ‘begging’ for it, or is he thinking in conditional terms and “only if… then…” scenario’s. Everyone has a passion and has a talent. The art however is to un-cover these talents with your people and to bring them to their full potential. But sometimes people are also still trying to find out for themselves what their talents really are. And it is not always that easy – as a manager – to guide a person in this “self-assessment”. It tells a lot about people, and also about their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Does the passion of the person fit with your mission statement, but more importantly with the mindset of your organization/department? Where do you stand for? What kind of people do you want to attract? Who do you want to put in the spotlights? What makes your organization special? Or how do you want to be perceived in the market?

3. The basic competences must be in place. Typically each organization has its own set of core values or has a ’credo’ that describes what is of high value for them. Some examples are: Respect, teamplay, action oriented, professionalism, professional courtesy, … 

So don’t start off initiatives with people who do not fit with these 3 rules of thumb, because sooner or later issues will arise. Sometimes it is better to let the best persons go, because in the long run they will withhold the growth of your organization.


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