Jeff For Banks

The 17 Fundamental Traits of Organizational Effectiveness

I recently read Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy and reviewed it in this blog. One of the “must reads” was The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution by Gary Neilson, Karla Martin, and Elizabeth Powers from Booz & Co. I dedicated one blog post: naming it Common Sense to Successful Strategy Execution because I didn’t think it was a secret. In this post I would like to write further on the subject, focusing on the 17 fundamental traits uncovered during Neilson, Martin, and Powers’ research. 
The below table was drawn from research from more than 26,000 people in 31 companies. The Booz consultants distilled them in the following order of importance…

A note about the study: The Booz consultants tested organizational effectiveness by having participants fill out online diagnostic that contained 19 questions… 17 traits and two outcomes. The traits were ranked and indexed to a 100-point scale to determine their relative importance to organizational effectiveness.

In the study, 61% of respondents in strong-execution organizations agree that field and line employees understand the bottom-line impact of their decisions. This figure plummets to 28% in weak-execution organizations. For community FIs, this is terrible news, as so many rely on top-level profit reporting to determine success or failure. Does the deposit operations manager know the implications on product costs for adding a software component? Doubtful. Does the lender understand the profit implications to his or her line of business by authorizing the waiving of a fee? Unlikely.

A similar analysis can be performed on your organization as a whole, focusing first on the top traits and working your way down, ensuring your FI moves toward affirmative responses to each trait. Once completed, FIs can then incorporate the 17 traits into executive performance reviews.

Imagine an FIs board of directors using the above table to evaluate the effectiveness of its CEO. Or a CEO to evaluate the effectiveness of his or her direct reports. Simply putting the 17 traits in a spreadsheet, and responding on a five-point scale of “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” would certainly motivate the person evaluated to create a strong execution culture in his or her organization. For proponents of the 360 review process, subordinates can also respond, giving the Board or CEO insights beyond their own perceptions and bias.

This blog has dedicated countless posts to strategy. If an FI is to promote an execution culture, it begs the question “execute what”? It reminds me of legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay’s response when asked about his team’s execution after a lackluster performance: “I’m all in favor of it.” My point is, and I do have one, when evaluating the organization and its executives on execution, it should be executing long-term strategy. That implies the FI has a long-term strategy to chart the course to compete and succeed in a rapidly changing industry.

What are your thoughts on developing an execution culture?

~ Jeff

Note: I tried to make the table as large as I could. If you would like a larger version, e-mail me.