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The 5is: The Skill Set for Managers to Beat the Obstacles to Implementation.

In one of my earliest articles, I shared with you a piece of research that analysed the most common obstacles to implementation suffered by organisations – and by middle managers in particular. Today, I want to show you how you can overcome these obstacles, using the HOW Skill Set for managers.

The research, published originally in the Harvard Business Review, showed the places from which failures in execution within organisations generally stem. These, surprisingly enough, were not attributable to a failure to plan or strategise. Rather, they came, primarily, from three things:

  • Poor communication of strategy to the different teams across the hierarchy of the organisation. This was to the extent that very few employees actually new what company strategy was ­– or WHY it was happening.
  • A lack of agility – or an excessive rigidity of strategy. Generally, this meant that companies would keep ploughing on with an obsolete strategy even when conditions had changed.
  • Finally, a failure to empower staff and to review performance effectively. Employees, generally, did not seem to work as effectively as they could if they were not granted some autonomy and ability to problem-solve creatively themselves.

If you want to make change happen at work, these are the issues that you as managers need to tackle. But you’re not alone: three quarters of businesses struggle with the implementation of their strategy. I come across this phrase daily:

‘I know WHAT to do, I just struggle with HOW to make it happen’

Let’s put your work in that last, successful quarter. To ensure that you beat the obstacles to implementation, you need the HOW Skill Set for managers. And this means the 5is: the HOW Skill Set.


The 5is – the key to the HOW Skill Set for managers – starts with intention. However, judging from the research, you’ve probably got this covered already.

What is intention? Here, you’re talking about the destination that you want to take your business – and for what reasons. I like to call these the WHERE and the WHY of change. In all strategic thinking, you’re going to have these.

If you’re in a business and have received this information from on high, ensure that what you have received is as clear and as fully fleshed out as possible. Because clarity on the WHERE and the WHY makes the whole process easier.

And because if you are one of the half of all managers who can’t state one piece of company strategy – as the HBR research suggests – without clear intention it’s simply impossible to make change happen.


The next step in the HOW Skill Set for managers is Insight. This is where you need to decide WHAT you need to change, improve, or remove to achieve that intention. You need to think what you are going to do to tackle particular pain points – and seek inspiration from others who have made such changes.

But beyond the work that needs to be done to realise the task – or reach the destination – itself, you need here to think a little laterally too. If you are going to avoid the obstacles to implementation that plague other businesses, this is essential.

Consider, then, ideas about employee autonomy. Brainstorm ideas on how you can build a system to allow your teams the greatest amount of cooperation and the greatest amount of creativity.

All of this will improve the implementation of your strategy.

Struggle with time management? Check out my podcast on HOW to Add Structure To Maximise Your Productivity:

Identify: Categorise and Prioritise.

You’ve used the Insight stage to gather all the possible avenues and mechanisms for implementing your intention. The next step of the HOW Skill Set for managers is to identify, to categorise and prioritise what you are going to implement and outline HOW.


There is no one type of task that needs to be done. Rather, use the two categories of tasks to frame the different changes that need to happen: are they actions (one-offs) or habits (routine practices)?

We’ve seen how one of the major obstacles to successful implementation is a failure of managers to communicate strategy effectively. Ensuring successful communication may be a central routine tasks in the form of regular check ins, meetings or communication through various channels.

Meanwhile, tasks that might be successful actions can be delegated. What you as a manager need to consider is outlining the result you want the action to achieve, leaving your team to plot of the route to the intention. Facile, unexplained orders are not going to get you or your organisation there.


And once you have your types of tasks, you need to prioritise them. Use the terms impact and influence. 

Impactful changes are those that have a pretty instantaneous result and reward  -these keep teams motivated towards the overall intention. Influential changes are those that affect your future ability to work, they have a ripple effect.

An Example:

Say for example you complete an insight session with your team and they explain that one of the annoying things that happens in your organisation is lots of meetings of which many are not 100% relevant to everyone that is invited, these people feel this energy sapping and a waste of time, when they could be working on something else.

So you decide an impactful and influential change could be to now only invite those who are 100% involved. Immediately one change has an instant positive effect and multiple benefits and rewards for those involved – meetings are more concise, engaging and your team are more productive.

Find out more about prioritising tasks and habits in the article below…

Impact and Influence: HOW to Prioritise Your Tasks and Habits.


It is at this point that you reach the implementation stage – in which to strategically plan those things that need to be done.

Resist that temptation to do everything at once. How are all these tasks going to look in the short, medium, and long terms? What happens daily, weekly, or monthly?

Two points emerge from the research on this.

Firstly, agility. How are you going to ensure that you stay aware of changing conditions that may render the strategy a little obsolete? How are you going to adapt to these changing conditions? These ideas need to be considered as you are planning.

And secondly, reviews. Ineffective performance reviews are one of the main factors that hinder execution – according to the HBR’s research. How are you going to monitor implementation and hold people accountable? Can you break up the larger intention into multiple milestones?


Finally, in the integration stage of the 5is process, you need to consider those habits we mentioned earlier.

How are you going to ensure that the behaviour of your teams change – even at the smallest level – to ensure best results? This is how you build a system for success.

Can you make monitoring progress habitual? And can you make rewards and incentives a central part of your weekly plans? How are you going to integrate these transformative habits and routines into your normal days?

Remember, habits make up nearly half of our daily behaviour as humans. Harness the power of habits – and, with the HOW Skill Set for Managers, overcome the obstacles to implementation in your business.

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