strategy.

Execute Your Strategic Framework Part I

Execute Your Strategic Framework Part I

Seven out of Ten organizations have strategies designed for business climates that no longer exist. Does your current strategy need a bail out?

In their groundbreaking Harvard Business Review article, What Really Works, Nitin Nohria, William Joyce, and Bruce Roberson wrote, "The key to achieving excellence in strategy, whatever you do and however you approach it, is to be clear about what your strategy is and consistently communicate it to customers, employees, and shareholders. It begins with a simple, focused value proposition that is rooted in deep, certain knowledge about your company's target customers and a realistic appraisal of your own capacities."

In our work with clients large and small, we often discover that the match between what they bring to market (value proposition) and what the market is motivated to buy is often out of sync. It's challenging to actually see things from the customer's point of view. We strongly urge clients to objectively check their value proposition to ensure their strategies are based on reality, not guesswork or speculation.

Executing a strategy is much more difficult than formulating it. Implementation involves a blended approach of sound thinking, an understanding of the dynamics at play, as well as excellent communication and relationship skills. An organization's structure, incentive programs, company policies and procedures, and vested interests of stakeholders are just a few of the factors that can derail even the best of strategic intentions. It's critical that we understand what makes strategy work and the often invisible forces in our organizations that can make it difficult to implement our strategic intent.

Common questions include: "Do we make changes quickly, all at once, or over a period of time? What level of discontinuity are we willing to endure on behalf of the changes we're making?"

There is often a misconception that strategy is for management and execution is a lower-level responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. Execution of strategy is clearly under an executive's span of control. Managers often ask us for a roadmap or template to guide them in executing strategies. Such tools are available, but there are no one-size-fits-all recipes. It's not all guesswork, but different organizations require emphasis on different components of a standardized roadmap. Skipping essential steps is a recipe for disaster.

Strategy and execution are interdependent. This is not as simplistic as it seems. Some executives insist on trying to make their strategies work, rather than being willing to adjust them based on accurate feedback and a crystal clear picture of current reality.

Having a military strategy to win a battle using 500 tanks is futile if you do not have 500 tanks. Before you dismiss this illustration as irrelevantly obvious, ask yourself, how many unrealistic strategies have you seen with no chance of implementation?

Before we rush to execution, it is important to quickly revisit these questions:

Is the current culture appropriate for the challenges ahead?

Are rewards and recognition, including compensation, conducive to supporting what we need to achieve stretch goals?

Is there evidence that people fail to act strategically based on incomplete or misinformation?

Are we focused on making problems go away or creating the results we want?

How much time does the owner, executives, or managers spend on correcting, re-working, or doing things themselves?

How much management time is invested in trying to "motivate" others or secure "buy-in." Do initiatives generally begin with energy and enthusiasm then lose steam? (If this is a recurring pattern, it is indicative of a design issue, not personal commitment, lack of execution, or motivation.)

Is there evidence of lost business due to slow or inappropriate responses to competitive pressures?

In the execution phase of a strategic initiative, how much time is wasted by inefficiencies or bureaucracy?

Do executives or managers try to implement change all at once or in incremental steps? (The wrong choice here can seriously hamper or kill execution efforts. The question is not right/wrong, but what form of change fits the current situation.)

How are resources allocated? (If the "squeaky wheel" or loudest complainer is allocated resources, strategically important initiatives may falter due to lack of resources or support.)

Strategy and execution are interdependent. This is not as simplistic as it seems. Some executives insist on trying to make their strategies work, rather than being willing to adjust them based on accurate feedback and a crystal clear picture of current reality.

Having a military strategy to win a battle using 500 tanks is futile if you do not have 500 tanks. Before you dismiss this illustration as irrelevantly obvious, ask yourself, how many unrealistic strategies have you seen with no chance of implementation?

Listen for the terms "ideal" or "ideally" in day to day planning conversations. This is the impossible dream that keeps decision-makers in the conceptual frame. Do you find yourself discussing incentives to "improve performance" long before a strategic framework is crystal clear? How many local initiatives have you seen that are obviously inconsistent with, even contradictory to, an overall corporate strategy?

In part II, we'll examine two contrasting strategic processes and how to evaluate and adjust your current strategy and execution plans to match today's business reality.

Execute Your Strategic Framework Part II

Author:.

Dave is a 40-year veteran Business Coach. Mr. Mather designs and conducts customized Performance Improvement Systems for organizations across Canada. Dave regularly aligns employees to a common vision in a period of weeks rather than months or years. The end result is a success rate for clients of three to five times that of the national average. Dave's background is in the broadcasting industry where he worked as a newscaster and radio personality for 6 years. He has traveled across Canada and ...

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