Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is your Strategy Executable

Many strategies are not executable, as many organizations have an intention, but not an execution ethos.

There’re many theories and frameworks upon how to craft a strategy, however, it is a fact that executing the strategy is usually more difficult than defining it, as it requires a longer period of time and resources. Moreover, it sometimes requires organization structure modifications and cultural changes when resistances may arise and needs to be properly managed in order to have a successful strategy execution.

  1. Why Some Strategies are Non-Executable 

Many strategies are not executable, as many organizations have an intention, but not an execution ethos.

  • Many organizations don't have a clear organizational identity (from vision & mission, values, culture, and approach). Hence, if the top management doesn't know "who" the organization is, the planning and its execution will likely be inefficient. It's like building a skyscraper on a very weak foundation on the bottom, along with the way in the execution the half-built building will face a high-risk of collapsing....and the only way to fix the issue is to go back and strengthen the foundation first. 
  • There is no connection between what is in the plans and the broader developmental issues that have to be attended to. Missing the execution-"how" part of Strategy: The focus of the strategy is in the building of the strategy or plan, (the “What” is to be done), not its execution (The “How” to do it).Clearly, there are many factors that can be pointed out as why executions often didn't generate the expected results of the strategic plan. But like how the research was being structured, it starts with the "category 1", the formalized planning phase. And why this fails is perhaps lack of management capacity in conducting the planning process. The reality is, if you measure what people currently do in terms of a systems-based model, the most strategies that firms do are ambiguous, and really deals with about 10% of the factors that drive appropriate strategy as well as execution.  
  • Fail to Translate Strategy into Specific Goals: The top reason why strategy implementations fail is because they were not actionable from the get-go. Strategic plans need to get to the level of specifically achievable goals such as "Who is doing what, with whom, how are they doing it and when does it need to be started and finished by." Then it needs to be easy for employees to understand and easy to distribute across the organization. 

2. How to Make a Valid Strategy 

The problem is that things are changing so fast these days that the capability to craft a valid strategy and execute it well is becoming more significant to an organization’s survival and success.

  • Planning should start with a bottom-up approach to create buy-in, a realistic plan and execution must start with strong leadership from the top. If the structure (process, ownership, accountability) were in place and clearly understood, some if not half of the execution issues should begin to settle. 
  • Breakdown Strategy into Executable Phases: Assuming that the planning process produced a valid strategy, then the question at hand is why it would break down during the execution phase? There could be several reasons; one that has the greatest impact is the lack of "buy in" or commitment. If the key players needed for execution did not provide critical content that helped to shape the strategy or if management does not provide the resources necessary to achieve the goals the plan will surely fail 
  • The changing market conditions drive the need to ensure that corporate strategic initiatives (Cost Center) are aligned and realigned with Operational tasks (Profit Centers). Hence, too much conversation should not cause a time stretch between enunciation and implementation. It has been said that the world is changing so fast today, that you need to run as fast as you can to stay where you are.  

3. How to Execute Strategy 

Many organizations today struggle with executing strategy. Execution matters far more than the quality (accuracy, depth...) of the strategy. Why? Because execution deals with people, and leadership is harder to find than brains.

  • Effective execution is forever interconnected with effective implementation. If you cannot get it started, you will never be able to execute it.Once the Strategy has been put in place, it needs to be managed successfully.This depends on and involves a lot of conversation, which calls for focusing attention, stimulating people and inspiring performance. The messages must be compelling, simple, clear and believable to create a buy in. It means aligning your organization and people to the strategy, fielding the best team, honestly appraising your team, rewarding the behaviors required to execute strategy, upgrading your team, and celebrating victories. In addition, leaders must over-communicate strategy. Strategies and transformations fail because leaders under communicate and do not convince employees of the strategic benefits to the company and the employee. When the strategy is under-communicated and employees are not onboard, the strategy is just another flavor of the month.  
  • The success of strategy management undoubtedly lies in the ''timely execution'' and this can be achieved only through continuous persistence and follow up. There must be a sense of urgency. Further Leadership at operational level must be competent, dynamic and smart to taste and digest the initiatives. Keeping fewer key initiatives increases efficiency and effectiveness. Apart from the buy in; one of the key factors that are often overlooked is the influence of performance metrics on other areas of operation that is not being monitored. A risk assessment is taken on the strategy implementation 
  •  A typical strategy execution model that works well is called the ADLI technique which involves: (1) What is APPROACH the leadership at Corporate employs & approach at the Operation Level (2) How does the Leadership DEPLOY the initiatives (3) To what LEVELS in the organization have the initiatives been communicated and (4) What tools, processes, and structures are used to INTEGRATE the entire strategy enunciation and implementation process to achieve the common objectives.  
Thereof, an executable strategy starts with simplification & communication of the complex strategy, also takes process and discipline in executing strategy effectively. 


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