Sunday, January 9, 2022


Strategy implementation is a change management problem and people are the center of strategy management success.

Strategy management is about diagnosing the critical business problems, making choices, taking actions to solve them smoothly. Strategic planning and execution are a continuous cycle of organizational adaptation to a changing world. It's not just about strategic planning, but making the strategy a living thing. 

When strategy execution fails to achieve desired results, the management needs to ponder: Why does strategy execution unravel and how to improve strategy execution success rate? How to ensure the organization knows the tasks and knowledge required to sustain itself and create an environment and business systems to support those tasks being done and build the organizational competency.

Leadership character is a decisive factor for strategy execution:
Statistically, strategy management has a very low success rate. Would a solid strategy still be plausible or does strategy suffer too where the character is flawed and trust is lost? Successful strategy execution is directly related to leadership character and capability from the top down. Without integrity of character, the best strategy will fail to inspire confidence to decide and courage to act. Leaders and managers should guide, direct, own the strategy they hold themselves accountable for; listen, communicate, and rally the team for the cause. So a leader of character has to have the courage to act; take the action that is right versus the one that is popular. Productivity can triple via authentic communication and organizational focus.

In practice though, the strategy is often sabotaged by lack of character and ineffective organizational culture; as it is the attention to the "soft stuff" that has a huge positive influence on productivity. Character distinguishes a person from others who don't demonstrate excellent and virtuous behaviors. Without character, the strategy is just a style without substance; a shelf-ware without actions; some casual behaviors without consistency. Authenticity, courage, consistency, etc, are all crucial elements of character. The character is a great beginning when the strategy is lacking. The strategy is how that state is realized externally. Character sustains leaders about who they really are; so they can envision with clarity and present their authentic self to make influence. Strategy pushes the business to concern where they want to go. It starts with a vision of the leaders, then developing a plan to achieve it. Without character, no strategy can save you.

Leadership inquisitiveness helps to dig through the root cause and improve strategy effectiveness:
We live in the age of exponential information growth; command & control management style is out of steam. However, many executives who don't understand change management, or the nonlinear logic behind it, believe they can 'execute Strategy' by just telling their team to 'get on with it,' it usually fails due to misinterpretation, misalignment, or lack of effective performance management systems. Simply put, strategy execution unravels because of poor leadership. In other words, lack of accountabilities, lack of decision rights and inter & intra-divisional tensions.

Lead by questioning. The superior execution requires the leaders’ inquisitiveness to ask insightful questions, and be skeptical of conventional ways to do things. By making inquiries, the leaders can leverage strategic thinking to clarify what they intend to do in the future for building high-performance and high mature business. It is far easier to proactively structure and manage execution than to deal reactively with the ravages of execution. To improve strategic thinking and critical thinking in strategy management, the biggest mind-shift in moving from operation-driven to strategic-oriented is to switch from focusing on activities and processes to thinking about outcomes, cause-effect, sequence and consequence.

Leadership adaptability enhances an iterative strategy execution continuum and improves risk intelligence:
The pace of change is increasing, the management challenge is in finding the appropriate balance between stability and adaptability, and managing 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. It's tough to make changes, particularly in large organizations with vested resources and cultures supporting "the way things have always been done." It’s the work of the business management to inspire and motivate, adapt to dynamic business environments, help people navigate through difficult changes and achieve their goals, deliberately make the close alignment among the company’s strategic direction, its most distinctive capabilities – people, process, technology to executive capability-based strategy smoothly.

A business system gains more and more energy until it crosses the point of system resilience. To improve business resilience, organizations should investigate hidden risks or uncover gray areas, and manage them well to improve their business maturity. There is a grey area between risk avoidance and risk-tolerance, the key is balance, give enough autonomy to the business management for making its own decisions on taking or avoiding risks, put in place a mandated risk tolerance structure via escalation requirements based on current risk ratings. It's crucial to provide information to the assurance lines that evaluate the business risk profile for analytical breakthroughs and managing the “shade of gray” effectively. 

The characteristic of the digital era is the 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 and reap as many benefits as possible. But without solid execution, strategy will fail to achieve expected results. As long as people approach strategy and execution as two sets of activities, they will continue to fail in achieving the expected benefit. Without character-based leadership, simply there is a lack of inspiration, passion, motivation, and engagement to implement the strategy. Without inquisitiveness, strategy becomes outdated sooner than what you think; without adaptability, the strategy execution cannot make proper adjustment, increase risk to fail and impede business performance. Hence, strategy implementation is a change management problem and people are the center of strategy management success.


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