Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three Challenges in Strategy Execution

Execution is more difficult due to its complexity and the culture or resistance.


Executing strategy has been and is still an ongoing educational journey. Leaders have now started realizing the interdependence between efforts needed to formulate a strategy and the importance and indeed the need of building internal capabilities to executive it. A very good strategy takes perhaps a few weeks to define it, but the execution is an ongoing activity or process for the entire life of an organization. In detail, why is strategy execution more difficult than strategy making, and how to execute it effectively?


The complexity of execution. One of the factors for strategies to fail at the implementation phase is its complexity. There’s ambiguity in such strategy. The expectation is not communicated clearly to all and is neither well understood by all stakeholders. Strategies should be simple that are understood by all. A strategy can be defined in the following two statements: 1) where should you improve, and 2) how to succeed where you choose to improve. And it should be communicated on a regular basis, keeping track if there are any slippage or deviation. Be strategic but be prepared for the unknown. And if you foresee changes, go back to the drawing board before moving forward. Here are the complexity factors to execute strategy.
-Managers are trained to plan, not execute
- Planning and execution are interdependent
- Execution takes longer than formulation
- Execution is a process, not an action or step
- Execution involves more people than strategy
strategies really are not meaningful unless they include an implementation plan, developed by the stakeholders and the executive team together. The plan also has to be dynamic so that it can deal with changed conditions and unforeseen circumstances.


The culture resistance. You need strong senior executive leadership for support of strategy champions. It is a slow process and takes a lot of patience from strategy champions, sponsors, senior leadership and the operations. Consistent, clear communication between all stakeholders is the key.  it is rather essential to note that strategy is everyone's responsibility and, therefore, a clear communication to all levels of an organization is indeed a tool that may guarantee successful execution and achieve desired results. It is, however, advisable for any organization to adapt step by step process to manage strategy and build internal capability with it. The process needs periodical reviews to test if the process is understood by all and that produces expected outcomes. The best way is to detail it as much as possible for all tranches to be executed as part of the strategy. The major factor has been the resistance of people and change management process is to be handled very carefully and proper training are conducted at the right time. The execution shall follow the logic steps:
1). Identify your strategy champions and select qualified execution team
2). Get sponsorship and endorsement from the C-Level for your dynamic plan
3). Perform consistent clear communication (CCC) between all stakeholders
4). Conduct periodic followups to review / refresh checkpoints, manage internal / external changes, and mitigate risks.
The challenges to building an execution-competency team: The best people to execute a strategy are those who have contributed to the development of it. Make an involvement of project/program/portfolio managers in the development of strategic plans. It is unfair to expect from these roles to deliver when they have no idea about why these objectives are in place. On the same ground that leaders have to support / sponsor strategy so do they need to ensure competence / talent for execution is available. While leadership and hunger for change are mandatory for strategy, a well-defined strategy needs a well-trained team to execute it. And there is no shortcut to it. Finding and building the right team and empowering them to implement the strategy. Organizations are usually wrong in believing that engaging the management team is enough to build the right team. Managers may or may not be fully respected and followed by team members, but there will be people in the teams who are known for high performance, right attitude of helping co-workers and who are highly regarded and followed by other team members. A strategy implementation team should be built with such people because these are the people who can drive changes efficiently, break the resistance of people and encourage them to accept new changes. The main challenges for an effective execution are:
1). Organizational Resistance
2). Stakeholders management and communication
3). Complex and unclear strategy
The right level of sponsorship will help get the resources needed for the execution. And lastly, follow-up, follow-up is key in any execution works.


The PMO approach: In one approach, organizations can apply project portfolio management office (PMO) to deliver the change and the strategy made by senior executives or strategy consultants. One of the key things is that organizations tend to do too much when they are developing their strategic plan. It has more items that can be termed as a strategic mission than pure strategic objectives. Along with that the objectives are unclear to most of the stakeholder developing the strategic plan, let alone the people delivering it. Portfolio management can help prioritize and translate strategic initiatives into the project portfolio in order to manage them more effectively. PMO was meeting weekly with the sponsors and project manager with concerns and issue were there to execute the strategy.

Strategy and execution are interdependent, and they are not linear steps, but an iterative continuum. The strategy is more important to keep business navigating through the transformation journey, but the execution is more difficult due to its complexity, it needs to have overarching business capability and culture of collaboration to manage it effectively and efficiently with agility.

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