Tuesday, April 19, 2016

“CIO Master” Tuning XI: Does Superior Execution Require the Leaders’ Inquisitiveness?

Digital strategy is the compass to navigate through the digital transformation journey in organizations today.

The characteristic of Digital Era is increasing rate of change and continuous disruption, and this isn’t going to change. Preparing a strategic plan is important because it points the organization in a direction where it can maximize its value position and reap as many benefits as possible. But the more challenging part is strategy execution, statistically more than two-thirds of strategy implementation fail to achieve the expected result. How to diagnose the root causes of problems? Does superior execution require the leader's inquisitiveness? And what are the best scenario to manage strategy execution continuum?

Why does Strategy Execution unravel: Digital strategy is the compass to navigate through the digital transformation journey in organizations today. So it’s important to outline the strategic intent and frame the strategy to be understandable and implementable. Strategy execution is difficult. two-thirds to three-quarters of large organizations struggle to implement their strategies. Why does strategy execution unravel and how to improve strategy execution success rate?  Successful strategy execution is directly related to leadership capability from the top down. Leaders and managers should guide, direct, own the strategy they hold themselves accountable, they should listen, communicate, and rally the team for the cause. It's not just about strategic ideas, but making the strategy a living thing. Strategy execution unravels because of poor leadership. In other words lack of accountabilities, lack of decision rights and inter & intra-divisional tensions. The strategy when executed has a breath, and it can breathe life into people and the culture. The process of moving something from outlier to acceptance usually takes a long time and involves risk. It seems logical the more ambitious the strategy businesses undertakes, they should expect high levels of friction to capture (inside and outside the company) those high rewards. However, most managers spend very little time addressing crumbling paradigms or basically would not know where to start to addressing crumbling paradigms. The superior execution requires the leaders’ inquisitiveness to dig through the root cause, and it is far easier to proactively structure and manage execution than to deal reactively with the ravages of execution dysfunction. Productivity can triple via authentic communication and organizational focus.

What’s the weakest link in Strategy Execution? Complexity, uncertainty, disruptive changes, and interdependence are the new normal facing business today, most companies are lacking a holistic strategy for how they use technology to drive their business, and it's the information management strategy that most often goes unmanaged. A good strategy is beyond the well-designed template filled out with goal and vision, it should be more subject to challenges the business faces and provides a practical approach to overcoming them, it’s executable. PEOPLE are always one of the weakest links in strategy execution. The business strategy execution gaps exist at the people’s mindsets, the organizational culture. A great culture can support a weak strategy, but a weak culture cannot support a great strategy. Lack of risk tolerance culture is a barrier to implementing strategy more aggressively. A strategy is very important, but will only be successful if it is embedded into a company’s culture and if the culture is designed to implement the strategy successfully.

How to improve the effectiveness of Strategy Execution? Strategy and execution are not as different processes but as an integral part of strategy management. Change Management and Strategy Management need to go hand-in-hand. It is broadly contextual. There are circumstances where you do not have the time to "plan" or rescue the firm because of external shocks that are difficult to envisage, or because the strategic decisions made in the past are irreversible. What is missing is the internal capacity to understand strategy to the extent that the management and executive teams can participate actively in strategy development and honestly drive implementation. Sometimes strategy makers spend more time designing the content of strategies than thinking how to implement them successfully. They have to drive implementation, otherwise, the emergent strategies will continue to be ignored, the business gets stuck with the routine task of the day and nobody is adequately prepared to function well in this reactive mode. Hence, planning the strategy execution during the design stage in detail is very critical, it is also important to manage strategy in a more dynamic and proactive mode. It is clear that in many cases, often the strategy that is eventually realized, in many cases, differs from the original plan. Implementation of a strategy is 90% about initiating and managing necessary changes from the current state to both the strategic positions and designated action capability at the positions. Uncertainty simply requires more planning and flexibility in implementing strategies.

Strategy execution is difficult, there are many roadblocks on the way. However, it can be managed well. From effective leadership to execution culture; from proactive planning to rigorous processes; from measures to balanced scorecards; the super execution is led toward the right direction via leadership's inquisitiveness, the result of synchronization of all key business factors; the organizational agility, intelligence, strong disciplines and management practices.


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