Saturday, June 20, 2015

Strategy Execution - How to Keep Focused

It is important to stress the importance of strategy execution and laser focus on achieving the strategic goals.

If the strategy is more important because it directly impacts which direction should an organization go, then execution is more difficult, because it takes time and business alignment to make it work. And there are many pitfalls on the way, also a lot of roadblocks to overcome. So focus, focus, and how to keep focusing on strategy execution?

Focus on long term goals with some quick wins:  Living in the world of "strategy execution," the dichotomy often exists between vision and "doing." Strategies need to be first and foremost long-term, specifically because they are directional and need to allow for the organization to knock the rust off and move coherently in the described direction. Secondly, strategies need to be descriptive, but prescriptive as well. Meaning, they outline the areas where possible conflicting priorities may lie, and outline how they are to be handled in the organization in terms of resource allocation (time, budget, people, etc.). Thirdly, strategies need to be game-changers. They cannot be a cornucopia of "more of the same, keep the engine running, just a little faster.” They have to show that the organization is "playing to win" not just trying not to lose. Without this, they will never have resounding buy-in at the middle and bottom of the organization where execution really lives, and thus, conflict of priorities and silos will continue to hinder progress. In practice, this means a well defined and trainable approach to defining strategic goals and measurements, cascading them out to front-line teams, clear methods and personnel to effect improvements, and regular reviews to chart progress and fine-tune efforts.

Focus on building the culture of improvement: It would have to be a culture that is open to change and innovation. It would have to be an environment where the leaders view improvement and change as their main focus and daily operations as secondary. Most managers have the opposite viewpoint. Strategy execution will almost always change the way the organization operates, in order to align it with the defined strategic direction. Such change will always provoke some measure of resistance, particularly if the organization is large, traditional, has enjoyed success in the past, and has strong bargaining power vis-a-vis its customers. The employees will likely question the wisdom of changing what they perceive to be the "formula for success." It will take a strong transformational leader to demonstrate that the status quo is not a viable option, to show a new path that will lead to greater success, and to model the behavior needed by the new way. It will take a lot of leadership for the pioneer executors who want to bridge the chasm. Extra-work, you not only run the project but also find the time to quietly abstract and reflect, continue to keep the strategy update.

Focus on removing the silos and create synergy between strategists and executioners: There is no doubt that the chasm between strategy and execution is very complex in nature. It’s never a question of if these problems will happen, it’s a question of when and to what degree. The best way to remove these silos and problematic handoffs are to replace them with a many-to-many infrastructure. It’s all about engaging specialized talent so they can converse in ways they wouldn’t be able to on their own. This process should be intensive and highly effective – enabling an organization to get all the right people, tackling a challenge from all the right angles, all at once, which in turn results in the optimal solution. A silo approach doesn’t cut it, and business leaders need to find new ways to hasten their collective best thinking efforts – especially in larger organizations, where it is crucial that one does not exclusively rely on his/her own limited brain-power. Large groups can interact and be able to divide and conquer a complex challenge to accelerate your solution forming capabilities if done right. Focus on creating synergy between strategists and executioners. The most important thing when it comes to implementing strategy is to gain the buy-in or understanding of those who will be affected by it. Organizations need to get away from letting things fall through and start creating “integrated wholes” by utilizing the correct processes to solve these complexities - ultimately bridging the chasm between strategy and execution. The issue of the imaginary line between thinkers and doers is that neither of the two wants to cross, as people indulge in the comfort of their known scope of responsibilities and don't like to go into unchartered territory. It needs to have great teamwork and synergy between the strategists and executioners, senior and middle management. Regular communication and update is a great way, as everyone knows, the finger-pointing becomes a huge roadblock.

It is important to stress the importance of strategy execution and laser focus on achieving the strategic goals. Planning and execution are interdependent. Execution involves more people than strategy. It’s important to follow the logic steps, but be agile and flexible to adapt to the emerging changes for strategy execution.


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