Improving implementation at scale with data
The most important take-away from the National #TrustLeaders Symposium 2022 with Michael Barber for me was the unbreakable link between strategy and execution. The importance of implementation has been the cornerstone of Sir Michael’s work from Deliverology to Accomplishment and the symposium highlighted this by asking every participant to consider how their strategic priorities will be implemented.
Implementation is where the use of data turns a fluffy ambition into concrete actions. Sir Michael emphasised the importance of using data in planning actions and tracking progress. This is something that we have implemented as a priority at Edurio and encourage our partner trusts to do when planning their work. Here are three ways in which we have improved our strategy planning process by adding a tiny amount of data to setting goals, understanding the leading indicators, and having clear commitments.
1. Clarifying goals with data
Whenever we set objectives, we push ourselves to set a measure and an expectation for every goal. This gives clarity and clear success criteria to the team and something to strive towards. While it is not always easy and it may feel tempting to stop setting goals at the point where we feel everybody gets the jist of it, the extra effort of setting clear expectations always pays back in the long run.
|Goal without data||Data-driven goal|
|Edurio example||Launch a new safeguarding survey||Survey 50,000 pupils on safeguarding to build a new national benchmark by December 2022|
|School trust example||Improve staff engagement||Reduce staff risk of resigning by 5% by October 2023|
2. Tracking implementation with leading indicators
It is very important to distinguish between an end goal and the metrics to track along the way. If our objective is to improve exam results, that is an indicator you can’t view along the way – it is a lagging indicator. When you get the scores, you can’t do anything to adapt your actions to improve them. To avoid this predicament, we regularly track leading indicators – metrics that we believe will lead to the goal but can change on a regular basis. These can be further divided into actions (things we do) and outcomes (things we achieve). Tracking actions and immediate outcomes helps make progress on the goals despite the inability to directly measure progress immediately.
|Edurio example||Email or call 100 Edurio partner trusts about our new safeguarding research project||50 trusts express interest in participating in a safeguarding research project||Survey 50,000 pupils on safeguarding to build a new national benchmark by December 2022|
|School trust example||Staff well-being committee set in each school with 10 invited members and 4 meetings scheduled||Each school identifies 3 initiatives to improve staff wellbeing||Reduce staff risk of resigning by 5% by October 2023|
3. Setting measurable commitments within the team
When we meet for team planning sessions, we have changed our focus from priorities to commitments. These can always be confirmed as “met” on “not met”, and frequently directly contribute to the leading indicators set out previously. They define the scope of our plans and have had a massive impact on accountability and clarity.
|Edurio example||Summary document for the safeguarding project||Share a one-page summary with 3 external advisors next week|
|School trust example||Continue supporting school staff wellbeing committees||Reach out to every school this week, checking in with progress and offering to help|
Putting a number to the words has been tremendously impactful for Edurio from the grand strategy level to weekly tactical plans. If you are not already obsessing over it in your work, I would strongly encourage you to never agree to a priority, plan or goal without asking “How are we going to measure this?”.
Ernest Jenavs is the CEO of Edurio. Edurio are part of a paid for partnership with Forum Strategy. Forum Strategy also chooses its partners based on their expertise and ethos.
Note: Two frameworks have framed Edurio’s implementation approach – OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and 4DX (4 Disciplines of Execution). For those interested in reading more about some of these approaches and improving the day-to-day tracking of the execution of your strategy, I can recommend reading Measure What Matters by John Doerr (on OKRs) and The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Covey.
Note 2: The safeguarding project is a real project we are working on and will be launching soon – if interested in participating, drop me a note and we’ll be further along our clearly quantified goals!