I'd rather have a first-rate execution and second-rate strategy anytime than a brilliant idea and mediocre management
- Jamie Dimon
For CEOs and company leaders, developing a three, five or even a ten-year strategy is not the end of the story; it’s just the beginning. Unfortunately, turning strategy into reality has been a challenge for many – while estimates of execution success range widely by source, broad consensus is that the vast majority of strategic initiatives fail to realize their goal.
So how DO organizations bridge the strategy-execution gap?
It’s difficult, but you CAN increase your organization’s success rate with the following 5 steps:
1. Pick a winning team
Dwight Eisenhower once said Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. What the good general was saying is that the conversations that occur during strategic planning are crucial for building consensus, resolving conflict and being able to adapt to externalities, which is why it is crucial to assemble a cross-functional core team that will be responsible for developing and overseeing strategy execution. It’s easy for a CEO and an external consulting team to develop a corporate strategy. However, the enthusiasm, ownership, and understanding required for successful execution will be missed absent a truly cross-functional team leading the charge from the outset.
2. Pick targets and executors
What gets measured is what gets done. When everyone’s in charge, no one’s in charge. When planning how the strategy will be executed, these maxims should be your top two guiding principles. It’s easy to say that in the next 3 years the company’s strategy is to grow revenue aggressively and begin global expansion. It’s far more taxing (and beneficial) to define performance metrics and initiatives and then assign ownership for each to executors. Planning to operationalize the strategy is critical in whether it is executed.
3. Give power to the people
You’ve assigned ownership, and you’ve given direction. Now it’s time to give your metric and initiative owners support and autonomy to fulfill their charge. Too often, strategic initiatives take a back seat to flavor-of-the-day challenges and bureaucratic headaches. Don’t let this happen in your organization. Support your executors by giving them the authority and autonomy to do what you’ve asked and give them the time they need by removing less critical tasks.
4. Articulate strategy often and to many
You completed your five-year strategy, and you announced it at the last company meeting. It’s a start. Now, use every chance you get—emails, meetings, town halls, informal chats—to talk about actions, decisions, and goals in the context of your strategy. Create impactful visualizations like strategy maps. Give managers the tools they need to articulate the strategy and what it means for their department and provide feedback systems to ensure that the strategy is understood. This ongoing reinforcement will embed strategic focus throughout the organization, maintain alignment and create a strategy execution mindset. Making strategy everyone’s business keeps the organization focused on what you are trying to accomplish.
5. Review, analyze, adapt
Close the loop with your leadership team and the organization at the end of each quarter with a regular strategic management meeting that includes the core team, as well as your executors. Discuss progress, changes in the external environment, opportunities for improvements, successes, and how to address under-performing metrics and initiatives. Set and share new objectives and initiatives. Finally, communicate key outcomes from these meetings to the organization, and share goals for the next quarter.
These five essential steps, when deployed to engage and enable in your organization, will help you win the challenge of balancing vision and reality. Is your organization ready to execute its strategy effectively? Sign up for our free assessment and find out!
Judy partners with executives and leadership teams to engage and inspire employees in a way that delivers sustainable strategic results. She brings deep expertise and creative ideas to solve organizational effectiveness issues and closely collaborates in a way that builds internal capabilities. Judy has spent over 25 years consulting in a variety of industries, bringing her expertise in behavior to a wide range of organizational issues including organizational behavior change, leadership, change management, culture and engagement.