Is True North South of the Equator?

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The economic recovery in 2021 will put a premium on execution. Why? Because the operating environment will be more stable and predictable. 2020 was the year of big strategic changes; in 2021, you just need to execute well. 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. We are a PI Certified Partner because we have a passion for execution - after all, you can only execute through your people. However, there is more to execution than human capital. We recently became a Line-of-SightSM Certified Partner to help our clients execute better. Line-of-SightSM looks beyond talent to help you assess the five Key Success factors for Execution (let’s call them KSEs): Strategic Understanding, Leadership, Balanced Metrics, Activities & Structure, and yes, Human Capital. We are launching a series of short tips on execution. Every week we will discuss how you can improve each of these five KSEs.
True North

The Importance of Strategic Understanding

Lisa Kinsey

“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 explains what their True North is.

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; sometimes, managers and employees form cliques that each defend a different belief about what the strategy should be, 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. 

Is your organization understanding its strategy?   Answer the questions below. If you answer “yes” at least once, you need to clarify your intent to all employees:   Does your leadership team sometimes disagree on what differentiates your business in the marketplace?   Are your employees sometimes confused about the direction the business is heading?   If we surveyed your employees, would we find some who are unable to explain your strategy?   Are teams sometimes asked to optimize conflicting goals?     
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As leaders, we often believe that the job is done once we have formulated our strategic plan or updated our targets. This is not true at all. The real work starts when leaders transform into evangelists for their strategic intent and repeatedly and consistently explain it.

In fact, communication is not enough: what matters is UNDERSTANDING, i.e. making sure that all employees embrace the strategy. If they do not agree with it, the leadership should strive to have employees “disagree and commit”, an approach consistently applied by Jeff Bezos at Amazon.

“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 your business.

In our next blog, we will consider how critical leadership is to execution.

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

Lisa Kinsey

Lisa Kinsey

Lisa Kinsey’s expertise lies in organizational strategy, culture change, project alignment and execution. She has been on the forefront of change and transformed businesses and cultures through people-focused strategies. Lisa has held numerous leadership positions with Fortune 500 companies that spans from sales and operations to HR and organizational development. She is passionate about sharing her experiences, successes and lessons learned with her clients, helping them breakthrough to the next level of performance.

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