Closing the Strategy and Execution Chasm
Creating strategy is elegant. It follows logic, the use of models and the analysis of carefully collected data to draw conclusions and recommend a path forward. It’s usually largely done at arm’s length by a group of analysts and strategists, presented in a beautifully designed, carefully prepared document, and approved at board and or executive level. Confident in a job well done, the strategists recede into the background once the strategy is approved.
This is where things get messy because executing strategy is not elegant. It is a minefield, that few organisations have any formal processes in place to navigate. Strategy development occurs in the company war rooms. Execution takes place in the trenches. It requires process and involves engaging and leading people, and people can be unpredictable and have competing priorities, and day-to-day issues will always arise that compete for people’s focus, and they often win. 90% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. Only 27% of a typical company’s employees have access to its strategic plan.
The bottom line is that strategy execution requires as much focus and attention, and as many dedicated resources as strategy development. Strategy must be managed explicitly through strong leadership, the ability to influence with integrity, like any other major process in an organisation. Leaders need to meet frequently to assess and discuss progress, as well as decide on possible corrective action. At present, 85% of leadership teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy. This is simply not enough. The organisation’s people must also be engaged and welcomed on the journey. They need to understand the strategy and what that means to their role to ensure they have a sense of purpose when it relates to where the business is going. A business cannot expect its people to be committed to achieving a strategy that they don’t understand or worse, that they know nothing about. Communicate, check for understanding, then communicate, and communicate again. Recognise and reward, and be prepared to adjust course when necessary.
In most organizations, this process and leadership mindset either does not exist or is incomplete. However, 70% of organizations that use a formal process to manage strategy out-performed their peers. What formal process are you using and how are you influencing your people with integrity to help achieve the organisation’s strategy?