Sunday, June 15, 2014

Five Key Steps in Strategy Implementation

Communication, navigation, capability, progression and adaptation are all key factors in strategy implementation.

The conventional approach to strategy implementation is prescriptive or top-down, develop the strategy at the board or top management team, and then break it down into smaller chunks to align the organization with it. The pre-condition for this to work is that the external business environment is reasonably stable and slow to change. In today's digital dynamic or unstable business circumstances, the evidence points to strategy emerging rather than being prescribed. So what are key steps in strategy implementation, and how to improve execution effectiveness?

Clear communication and "walk the talk" are absolutely important. A blend of two different methodologies -storytelling and visual maps to facilitate the communication process: The visual map gives people the whole business situation and the story telling conducted by leaders provides the meaning of transformation. It often happens where the organization defines and communicates a certain strategy, but as soon as they come across the first conflict, their decisions contradict the communicated strategy. Therefore, iteration, interaction, and cross-functional understanding are all crucial in enforcing communication.  

The strategy must have clear goals, and each goal must have the 5Ws +1H: why (what is the real purpose); what (the clear goal), who (the people and what each is supposed to achieve; accountability - the person responsible to execute- and sponsorship - who assist the leader to eliminate obstacles beyond his/her scope);  when (timeframe); where (milestones), and how (constraints); and the corporate team should have a clear view of the linkages between business units (which share common internal functions as well as external channels, customers, business partners, and vendors).

People or organizational structure. Good execution depends on a structure that is aligned to the priorities in the strategy - a box in the structure for each priority. Also, it depends on people and capabilities. Often execution is not happening because the person allocated a task is not skilled or interested in doing it. So identify both execution blind spots and capability gaps, as strategy guides and touches all aspects of the organization, thus, its implementation will never be simple, but you can streamline implementation scenario via good alignment of people, process, and technology, and apply the best fit methodologies that simplify the strategy implementation; and more than methodologies, the strategy implementation needs a group of elements/tools to assure it can be implemented.

It is also important to define KPIs to measure strategy implementation. Whatever is measured usually gets executed. Define a few key strategic initiatives and associate 1-2 KPIs for each initiative. A KPI can be used for both an organization or a group within the organization,  so everyone knows that the way the organization is going to be measured at the end of the year is depended on X KPIs. KPIs related to talent performance works well based on corporate culture. It is better to take a more 'hands off' approach and think about setting goals then leaving people to figure out the best way to achieve or even to guide the direction and behaviors primarily through vision and values.

Dynamic adaptation: Finally, conduct periodic revision meetings to monitor the progress; and define the corrective measures that will enable the organization to meet the strategy. Do not forget that the strategy is not written on stone and, therefore, it can be changed if the environment requires it. More often, strategy-execution is not in linear steps, but a continuum, with adaptation to the changes.

If business vision is more art than science, then the strategy execution to reach such vision is more science than art, it takes systematic approach and management discipline in implementation and adaptation.


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