Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Strategy-Execution as an Iterative Continuum

Digital strategy and execution are no longer linear steps, but an iterative continuum.

Making a good strategy is difficult, Executing a strategy is, even more, challenge. There is still a very large disconnect between having an idea, creating a solid strategy, and implementation of strategy at many organizations. All are vastly different things. Although someone may have great ideas, there isn't a strategy behind it; or although strategy looks “beautiful,” there’s no solid action to achieve it. With the changing nature of digital dynamic, strategy and execution are no longer linear steps, but an iterative continuum.

Setting a strategy without a thought about the execution can really get you into trouble. Handing off a strategy without suggested execution is risky even to a senior person. If they haven't been part of all the background conversations, they won't have the context to pull from when point-of-no-return decisions need to be made. One of the challenges in executing the strategy well stems from a lack of understanding or ownership of the strategic principles. Too many organizations separate thinking and doing. Throwing a product of thinking "over the wall" to be done happens far too often. If a strategy can be thought of as a bunch of hypotheses about how one might execute to achieve the desired outcome, then, execution is the testing of those hypotheses in the real world as one attempts to implement or execute the strategies. The learning from the testing of those hypotheses allows one to tweak, or even pivot on the strategy in order to better meet the real-world execution.

One page strategy can highlight a few ideas with short sentences. The strategy needs to be "shareware," not "shelfware." It sets the direction for tactics and operations to aim at and support. The current situation, proposed strategy, and the process to identify tactics and operations should fit on one page and be used to shape decisions moving forward. In reality, a strategy is a preferred method, a modus operandi, chosen based on an intimate knowledge of context and goal. This method often can be described on a page. Strategy and execution are composite; one is useless without the other. The challenge is that the environment changes so fast nowadays that your strategy must be very flexible. Therefore, you need to have a strategy before execution, but it must be an agile strategy - easy to share, and concise to follow. Making this change requires a more fundamental and effective approach. It starts with creating a working environment that requires the change to take place.

Strategy and execution need to go hand in hand. Knowing where you're headed is critical to supporting all the micro-decisions along the way. The key objectives and opportunities to "pivot" can become lost in task planning and execution. It takes an integrated team to guide and monitor the execution with the individual representation of the ideas and knowledge of the mechanics collaborating to deliver a meaningful result. A sound strategy and plan of execution are both important. However, addressing both without also addressing the culture of the organization is risky at best. "culture eats strategy for lunch."

Both strategy and execution are the two equally important facets of the same coin, and in order to reap the success in the business, a clear and agile strategy is needed with proper execution through the iterative steps, to make strategy execution as a dynamic continuum.


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