The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here January 2014

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked - Part I
What We Liked - Part II | Conclusion

What We Liked - Part II

According to a recent study of 250,000 respondents, modern tools of communication result in the wastage of 30-40% of employees' time in the workplace. This is due to unplanned interruptions and the need to restore subsequent mental focus.[14] Author Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez suggests that lack of focus leads not only to unhappiness but also to:[15]

  • Errors.
  • Wasted time.
  • Miscommunication and misunderstanding.
  • Reduced productivity.
  • Loss of revenues.

Therefore, Antonio dedicates Part II of his book to how organizations can forestall these debilitating conditions. He does this by concentrating on his view of the elements of successful Strategy Execution as distinct from Strategic Planning. As he says:[16]

"[F]inding ways to achieve the strategic goals is what today is known as 'strategic planning', while 'strategy execution' is the method used to achieve those goals. The three most important elements of successful strategy execution are:

  • Identifying the company's core competencies that will differentiate it from the competition.
  • Selecting and prioritizing the initiatives that will exploit those core competencies and create sustainable growth via the company's strategic plan.
  • Organizing company resources so as to optimally execute the chosen strategy."

At the same time, for reasons noted earlier, it is essential to maintain a balance between Run-the-Business and Change-the-Business. Figure 2 illustrates Antonio's idea of a well-balanced company.

Antonio's thesis is that if all of the organization's fundamental elements benefit from becoming focused, the chances of improving strategy implementation are very high. However, although becoming focused will increase the chances of successful strategy execution, the strategy chosen and the decisions made must be the right ones.[17] To better explain the key elements a company needs to be successful in their strategy execution, Antonio uses the word "focused" as an an acronym.

Figure 2: Example of a recommended Resource Distribution Matrix
Figure 2: Example of a recommended Resource Distribution Matrix

As Antonio says:[18]

"FOCUSED can be thought of as an acronym that stands for:

F - Fewer projects rather than many. A focused organization that is able to effectively select and prioritize its projects and invests in just three to five good initiatives at a time clearly outperforms organizations that take on too many projects. The few projects that are selected are linked to one or several strategic objectives and are fully supported by top management.

O - Organized staff. A focused enterprise is made out of the very best professionals and only the best survive. The staff is organized in such a way that all personnel know what is expected of them. They do not waste time on activities that are not part of their core skill set; they focus on their key strengths and core capabilities instead of trying to improve their weaknesses. Moreover, run-the-business activities are clearly differentiated from change-the-business activities and the latter's resources are identified.

C - Competitive mindset. The focused company competes with the outside world rather than internally, using innovation and excellence as its main differentiation. Internal competition,[19] which is so negative in the long term, is eliminated because all the organization's effort is placed on doing what it does best in order to beat the competition.

U - Urgency. In business, time is money - even more so with the current level of globalization. Organizations need to launch their initiatives quickly. The time to market for new products must become shorter and shorter. Creating a sense of urgency is a competitive advantage, and the focused organization is always aware of this fact. Urgency is also needed to focus staff and encourage them to give of their best and deliver on time what is expected of them.

S - Strategy alignment. In a focused organization all staff are aware of the strategic objectives of the company and how they will be achieved. Every initiative in a focused organization's change-the-business dimension should be linked to one or several strategic objectives. Any initiative that is not so linked should be immediately cancelled.[20]

E - Excellence. A focused organization applies the highest standards to everything it does, and its products and/or services are known for their quality. Sustainable excellence requires attention to the details of every aspect of the organization: values, quality of employees, internal and external processes, and customer service.

D - Discipline.[21] Companies today need discipline to execute their strategy and key initiatives; without it, consistent performance becomes very difficult. Discipline should not be seen as something negative that inhibits innovation. Rather, innovation depends on discipline. Discipline for the staff means that once top management has approved a strategic project it should be meticulously executed without being questioned again and again.

The rest of the book explains in detail how these ideals can be accomplished in practical steps and, sometimes, what happens if they are not!

What We Liked - Part I  What We Liked - Part I

14. According to a study by Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth of 250,000 respondents, cited in New York Times, November 15, 2010
15. The Focused Organization, p77
16. Ibid, pp81-82
17. Ibid, p96
18. Ibid, ideas excerpted from p97 through p102
19. Some people call this "in-fighting".
20. Of course, unaligned initiatives should not have been approved in the first place.
21. The author defines discipline as "training to act in accordance with rules" or "the activity, exercise, or regimen that develops or improves a skill" p101
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