In business and in life, the game is usually won by those who can consistently execute a well-thought-out strategy. In other words, winners stick with it. Adherence is the critical link between strategy (knowing) and results (doing).  Winning requires adherence, because successful execution of your plan is not a one-time event. It’s a commitment to consistent execution over time.

The Adherence Equation

So how do you achieve adherence? Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned. Based on the experiences of world-class leaders and organizations, I have identified three components of adherence:

Focus provides the clarity necessary to make decisions that support your most important goals. It results in a clearly-defined pathway to success. A sharp focus answers the “what” question: What do you need to do to execute your strategy?

Competence is used here in the broadest sense of the term. It encompasses all the skills, systems, processes and tools your team uses to achieve its goals. The result is the ability to commit to, measure and hit your targets. Building competence answers the “how” question: How will you execute your strategy?

Passion creates a sense of connectedness. It builds a connection between teammates, a connection to our human need for meaningful work and a connection to each individual’s sense of value and contribution. Igniting passion answers the “why” question: Why are you executing your strategy?

When you think about adherence this way, the critical role of each component becomes clear. From elementary school math, we know that, if any multiplier in an equation is zero, then the product is zero. For example, assume that each of the three components – focus, competence and passion – are rated on a scale from zero to 10, with zero being the lowest and 10 being the highest. If any one of the three components is missing – let’s say focus equals zero – then there is no adherence:

Focus x Competence x Passion = Adherence

    0    x         4          x      8      =      0

The three adherence components are interrelated, meaning that changes in one affect changes in the others, similar to the way the various systems of the human body affect one another. As you address one component of the equation – or conversely, as you ignore one – you will see direct implications in the other two.

Consider what happens with a modest improvement in all three components. If all three are at a level five, adherence is 125. If all three increase just one point to a level six, adherence shoots up to 216. A modest improvement in each component produces a 73 percent increase in adherence. This underscores the compounding relationship among these components. Focus, competence and passion are equally important and more powerful together. This interrelationship creates a multiplier effect that can work for you (or against you).

The Art of Adherence

Achieving adherence is simple, but not necessarily easy. It takes skill and creativity to continually sharpen focus, build competence and ignite passion in your team. This is why I call it the art of adherence.

The art of adherence is a lot like growing Indian Thorny bamboo, which is native to Asia. Like many bamboo species, when this particular seed is planted, it requires the right amount of watering, sunlight and care. It takes up to two years of this kind of careful attention for the bamboo to build a strong root structure, which is not visible aboveground. However, once the sprout finally breaks through the earth, the Indian Thorny bamboo can grow up to 100 feet in a month!

When you consistently sharpen focus, build competence and ignite passion, you build a strong foundation for adherence. Initially, you may not see many tangible results. But rest assured that things are happening beyond your sight. Adherence is growing. Leaders and team members begin to stick with it, to execute their plans consistently. Your team builds momentum as it adheres to its plan and achieves small goals that lead to bigger goals.

The required effort decreases over time as actions become habits. Momentum continues to build, resulting in a self-reinforcing cycle of achievement. Then, seemingly overnight, your results will multiply. Mastering the art of adherence is a primary job of every leader at every level of the organization, and applying the adherence equation will help you do just that – stick with it and win!

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