Research by Harvard Business School professors Norton and Kaplan in their book The Execution Premium found that 70% of companies fail to achieve the full value of their strategic plan. A more recent Brightline surrey carried out in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 53% of executive leaders believe that a failure to deliver on strategic objectives puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Yet, just 10% of organizations deliver on all their strategic goals.
Closing the strategy execution “gap” has been elusive to many organizations and for good reason. Developing strategy is fun, engaging and energizing. At some point strategy needs to be translated to action, and strategy execution is hard work. It requires patience, persistence and commitment to a continuous, predictable and disciplined, process. There are many hurdles and roadblocks along the way.
Our role at Albu Consulting is to make the strategy execution challenge less daunting for our clients. We guide and coach our clients to ensure they establish strategy management as an organizational competency. Here are five fundamental best practice disciplines we see as important to successful strategy management.
Clarify – Too often strategy is left implicit in the owners/CEO’s head, and maybe shared with a few senior executives. As a result, no one really knows what the long-term direction of the business is, and why it was chosen. Employees are left in the dark without a clearly articulated roadmap of the organization’s destination. The strategy needs to be explicit, in a document that describes in as much detail as necessary, past performance, current situation and future state. Its less about numbers, and more about a discussion of what choices are being made and why they are important.
Collaborate – Getting buy-in to the strategy from those that will be tasked and accountable for execution is critical to success. Successful strategy management requires organizations to engage as many employees as possible in the execution of strategy. Leadership teams need to invite feedback, cause discussion, and debate solutions. The more employees are involved in the strategy, the more they own the strategy.
Communicate – Good communication is critical to executing your strategy. Although managers understand this, getting employee engagement with the strategy is challenging intellectually and emotionally. In our experience, leaders tend to under communicate and send inconsistent messages. A single memo is not enough. A few speeches by the CEO and executives will fall short. Employees are bombarded with personal and business messages 24/7. The challenge is to break through that clutter and make the strategy message stick. When you think you have communicated enough, do it again.
Calibrate – There is an old cliché, “What gets measured get done.” Another is, “if you can measure it, you can manage it.” Measuring it gives you the insight needed to stay on course to achieve your objectives. Once you have developed the strategy’s key performance measures (KPI), develop a cadence of review, discussion and fine-tuning to promote progress toward the achievement of the strategic objectives.
Commit – Leadership of the strategy management process starts at the top and requires his/her full commitment. There is no other way. It cannot be delegated. The owner/CEO owns the Vision, and is accountable to deliver on that promise. If the leader makes strategy management a priority, then everyone else will follow. This trickle-down behavior is fact, not theory.
Strategy management requires strong leadership of a continuous process that embodies these five important disciplines. Given that a majority of companies fail to achieve the full value of their strategy, a great opportunity exists for organizations that embrace strategy management. At Albu Consulting, we are committed to making strategy management a core competency and competitive advantage for all our clients. Contact us with your thoughts and experiences. We would like to hear from you.
“Strategy execution is the responsibility that makes or breaks executives.”
Alan Branche & Sam Bodley-Scott, Implementation
“Organizations don’t execute unless the right people, individually and collectively, focus on the right details at the right time.”
Ram Charan, Execution: The Dicipline of Getting Things Done