Managing Implementation Risk

When I used to work in Venture Capital we were regularly assessing strategic plans and business plans. If we liked the people, and the idea, we would move on to more detailed due diligence about every aspect of the business. Only then would you get in to negotiation of terms and conditions, which would lead to an investment being agreed. The whole process would regularly take over 6 months. To give you an idea, over one 12-month period we looked at 700 plans, and invested in 15 of them, so around 2%, which is in line with the industry norm.

On the day the final decision was being made about whether to invest or not, about 60% of the weight of the decision was around implementation risk. All the reasons not to do the deal had been removed by the due diligence process. However, it didn’t matter how perfectly crafted the business plan was, and how sound the underlying idea was, the focus was really on did we believe that the management team could execute the plan.

A wise old American venture capitalist once said “I would rather have the A Team with the B Plan than the other way round”!
Managing Implementation Risk is therefore of utmost importance. A good starting point is around staff engagement.

Ask yourself the following five questions:

  • Can you inspire and motivate your people with your vision for the future direction of the business?
  • Can you explain to them with absolute clarity what the process is going to be for the vision to be realised?
  • Can you get them to take ownership of the challenges, so that they set the outcomes and transition from being focused on “busyness” to being focused on achievement?
  • Can you lead the way by demonstrating an attitude that embraces change where it makes sense to do so i.e. not change for change’s sake? In this context it is important to note that if you are trying to change something you have to stick at it for a protracted period of time until your brain accepts it as the “new norm”.
  • Can you create a culture of trust and integrity, so that information sharing is encouraged and people collaborate better by following key common processes?

If this resonates with you I encourage you to read the work of Michael Gerber and Mark Fritz, who have so many helpful suggestions for you to make this work.

A few tips to help you with this:
1. You need a clear and robust plan, a strong purpose, and to be surrounded by the right people.
2. You need to encourage communication.
3. Look for some easy and early “quick wins” which will help you build momentum.
4. Be aware of the team supporting you, and check regularly where they are in the widely used “Forming/Storming/ Norming/Performing” sequence, bearing in mind they can go backwards as well as forwards, particularly when there are changes to the composition of the team.
5. Focus on growing your best people (in terms of both attitude and
achievement); they will help you deal with the rest of your people.
6. Ask your team questions, and get them to give you options, which will increase the possibility they come up with an option you can support.
7. Keep everyone aligned in terms of what success is going to look like.
8. Stick to your values – know what you will/won’t tolerate and refuse to compromise.
9. Be open to feedback and act on it.
10. Review progress regularly and don’t be afraid to take swift corrective action if necessary.

effective change david mellor article

The diagram above captures the essence of this.

A final thought for you on this topic. I remember back in the mists of time an annual appraisal where one of the comments was “He gets things done because of his people rather than at the expense of his people”. That made me very happy.

David Mellor has developed a portfolio of activities which derive principally from 25 years’ experience in commercial and investment banking with HSBC and Deutsche Bank. His consultancy activities embrace strategic planning and implementation, and mentoring existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. He published “From Crew to Captain” in 2010, written for people making the transition from working for big institutions to working for themselves. He has followed that up by launching “From Crew to Captain: A Privateer’s Tale” in 2014, which is written for people establishing consultancy practices. The third book in the trilogy –”From Crew to Captain: Commander of the Fleet” is available here.

 

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