The barriers that keep us from achieving the kind of business excellence that lasts are deeply rooted and won't be removed by "quick fixes."
At Six Disciplines, our research shows that there are six fundamental barriers to enduring business excellence:
1. Poorly Understood Strategy. While most organizations have a strategy, most people do not understand it. One research report revelad that 85% of leadership teams spend less than 1 hour a month discussing strategy. The barrier isn't usually the strategy itself -- 90% of strategies fail due to execution. Write the strategy down (3-4 pages max), share it with all team members and give them an opportunity to react and engage.
2. Weak Strategy Execution. One of the major barriers to lasting excellence is how little formal effort organizations put into learning how to execute strategy. The most vital core competence of all is the ability to execute strategy. Understand that there is a big difference between working in the business, and working on the business.
3. Unchecked Organizational Entropy. Small businesses are "systems," and once a small business makes plans, the chaos of everything changing around it gradually erodes those plans. Be aware of change, apply forces to counteract it, make time for planning, set expectations and hold team members accountable.
4. Lack of a Systematic Approach. Thinking holistically about your business - how to make all of the components, people, processes, policies, key measures, assets and strategies work together to meet the promises made to your customers and other stakeholders -- in a repeatable and predicatable fashion -- is key to achieving lasting excellence.
5. Impractical Implementation Methods. Choose wisely when deciding to implement improvement methods and systems, and focus on "goodness of fit" - rather than form, or bells and whistles. Whatever choices you make, they must be practical and take a long-term view -not cumbersome, complex, and a "quick fix" that solves everything at once.
6. People Are Not Engaged. Your employees need to be personally committed to your company's goals - not just compliant. To engage them, connect their work to the purpose of the company. Set appropriate expectations, communicate your strategies, share short and long term thinking, and hire people who are aligned with your mission and values.