By Jeff Brunings
Bottom Up is the New Top Down

Focus gets a lot of attention these days. Everyday we strive to stay focused in everything we do, whether it’s work, personal, or play.

Our focus on organizational strategy is no exception. The exercise itself of simply creating strategy drives initial focus. There are planning meetings, coordination, and collaboration to define a strategic direction, determine goals, and align on measurements and targets. People get assigned to items. Action plans are created.

Then, something unexpected happens. Over time, focus is lost. Strategy becomes hazy and cluttered by new, competing actions causing our attention to be redirected away from the things that matter most. We lose site of the core results and critical few priorities we fundamentally believe will help us achieve the vision of our organization, and the teams and people that comprise it.

The creation of organizational focus is one thing. It’s like an initial spark ignited by hard work. Keeping that spark alive and thriving so it’s sustainable separates those who succeed and those who are left sleeping in the cold.

It’s time for a new approach. No single tool, or system, is going to solve it for us. It’s up to us, the people, to make it happen.

Sometimes great leaders need to fall back and walk with the people.

There’s a better way for sustaining the focus of strategy. Sure, collaboration and engagement are key during strategy design, but it’s still a top down approach led by leaders, as it should be. But what happens in the weeks and months that follow? How can sustainability be driven from the bottom up within an organization?

First, it requires a shift in our thinking.

Building a foundation to support sustainable strategic focus requires an organization to adopt a mindset that captures the intensity of strategy’s initial spark and creates an environment for it to thrive. Organizations driven by sustainable focus and a relentless pursuit of results prescribe to these beliefs:

  • Simplicity is harder to achieve than the complex. The ability to isolate the critical few priorities drives what’s meaningful.
  • Cascaded accountability is everyone’s business. Everyone is assigned a piece of the strategy and uniquely contributes to achieving the necessary results.
  • Individual teams can self-manage. Focus on the right priorities, with the right measurements and targets, drives ownership and the willingness to lead from the bottom up.
  • Focus is measured in days and weeks, not months and quarters. The frequency of strategy meetings are tied to value. When there is value, the duration between meetings collapses.

So over the next few issues of this OnStrategy newsletter we’ll share perspectives for how to get it done, who is doing it, what’s working, and what isn’t. There’s no silver bullet, but a series of cohesive actions, processes and tools being used to achieve it. Learn more about driving results from the bottom up by attending one of our upcoming webinars. We believe it will challenge your mindset and conventionality of strategic management. It has ours.

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Jeff Brunings

With over 20 years management experience in multi-industry environments, Jeff drives customer experience by advancing the effectiveness of OnStrategy’s cloud-based platform and services.