Is Your True North, South of the Equator?

The economic recovery in 2021 will put a premium on execution. Why? Well, many companies got lean in 2020, and are doing more with less. Plus, the operating environment in 2021 will be more stable and predictable. 2020 was a year when a lot of companies had to change their business strategy. In 2021, we will need to execute flawlessly to get back on track.


However, how do we even know how well our organizations are currently executing? Financials cannot give the full picture since they don’t tell us how much better we could perform.


Wouldn’t be great if you had a Line-of-Sight into your business to uncover these hidden vulnerabilities?


Nast Partners is a Certified Partner for Line-of-Sight where we help our clients execute better by looking beyond talent to help you assess the five Key Success factors for Execution (we call them KSEs): Strategic Understanding, Leadership, Balanced Metrics, Activities & Structure, and yes, Human Capital.


Our next few articles will be a series of short tips on execution. We will begin by examining how you can improve each of these five KSEs.


Is Your True North, South of the Equator?


The Importance of Strategic Understanding


“True North” is taken from the Lean Lexicon and describes the ideal state of perfection that businesses should be continually striving toward. For most businesses, the business strategy encompasses (no pun intended) their True North.


What happens when True North is defined but not communicated?


Execution will suffer as employees perform their jobs based on different assumptions and goals. It is not uncommon for teams to pursue conflicting goals. For example, sometimes, managers and employees dig separate foxholes to defend a different belief about what the strategy should be, which is a recipe for a toxic culture.


No organization is immune to this confusion: BMW’s development of electric cars was famously stymied for several years by a very public disagreement between its former CEO and its Engineering Lead.


As leaders, we often believe that the job is done once we have formulated our strategic plan or updated our targets. That is an ill-fated illusion. The real work starts when leaders transform into evangelists for their strategic intent, repeatedly and consistently communicating it clearly throughout all levels of the business.


In fact, communication is not enough: what matters is UNDERSTANDING. How else can we measure and ensure that all employees embrace the strategy?


Where there is no agreement, leadership can strive to have employees “disagree and commit”, an approach consistently applied by Jeff Bezos at Amazon.


But we can’t get to that level of awareness without Strategic Understanding.


“True North” must be communicated up and down the organization. Otherwise, watch out for goals, strategies, or current initiatives that operate south of the equator!


It is essential that any work your company does in this area involves first defining your actions by clarifying the long-term Mission, Vision, and Strategic Intent of the business.


Here’s an example—at Nast Partners:


Our Mission:  To empower our clients to align around analytics, not opinions.

Our Vision:  Every one of our clients realizes bottom-line profit improvement.

Our Strategic Intent:  To be THE go-to trusted advisor in the hearts and minds of our clients, prospects, and network, known for adding tremendous value and making a difference.


In our next article, we will examine the critical role of Leadership in Execution.


How well is your business executing? To find out, please reach out and we can initiate an assessment of your execution capabilities.