Nothing is as useful as a good question. Organizational evaluation and performance improvement are essentially about asking the right questions. So I appreciate it when thought-leaders come up with a set of questions that make us think about what we are doing and how to do it better. Robert Simons does just that in his new book, Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution. An exerpt appears in the November 22nd issue of Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge. In that article, Simons summarizes the seven key questions:
- Who is your primary customer? The emphasis here is on “primary”. Most organizations have many different customers but resources should be dedicated to the most important customer.
- How do your core values prioritize shareholders, employees, and customers? Business leaders can’t make everyone happy. They need to be clear about who comes first when tough decisions have to be made.
- What critical performance variables are you tracking? Organizations often track too many measures which dilutes the value of the process. They should identify a few, key variables that indicate progress toward success.
- What strategic boundaries have you set? Employees need to know when their initiatives are aligned with the strategic direction of the organization and when they are not.
- How are you generating creative tension? The organization needs onogoing innovation. Employees must be motivated to continually move out of their “comfort zones” and try new things that will help the company strategically.
- How committed are your employees to helping each other? Commitment to shared goals or commitment to self-interest – this is a topic that should be explored openly in the organization.
- What strategic uncertainties keep you awake at night? Change is constant and adaptation is critical. Survival depends on making employees aware of those changes and making them partners in the adaptation process.
To this list of questions, I would add, “What are you doing to align employee learning to strategic goals?” If you want employees to be customer-focused, values-based, data-driven, innovative, and team-oriented, then they need learning interventions that will help them develop these strategic behaviors. The organization needs to be constantly providing the kinds of training, coaching, mentoring, and experiences that will contribute to development of competencies needed for execution of business strategy.