We know successful strategy execution is not easy. We have all read the articles, blogs, white papers, case studies that shout at us that strategy often fails. When you do a Google search for “Why Strategy Fails” there are 106 million hits. There is no shortage of writing about it. The question is how do you avoid being one of those entries in the search?
According to a 2015 HBR article, over two thirds of large organizations struggle to execute on their strategy. It’s fair to say that strategy doesn’t achieve it’s true potential A LOT! So if we have so many smart people working on strategy, and so much information at our fingertips, why do we struggle?
Taking the Time to Invest in Your Strategy Execution
It’s often not about the strategy itself. It’s about the commitment of the leaders to make the changes needed to support and enable the strategy. In fact, many strategies do succeed to some extent, but they almost never realize their full potential.
As 2016 comes to an end and you look to 2017 as an opportunity to achieve your ambitions, you should step back and consider how to set your organization up for successful strategy execution.
“Count me in! What do I need to do?”
Your Strategy Execution Checklist
To help we have compiled a simple checklist for you to work through. It requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. If you see gaps or risks based on the checklist, proactively do something about it. Better to address it now rather than doing the strategy scramble six months into the year when you will be hard pressed to make up for lost ground.
- Lack of alignment. All too often we say we are aligned, but that’s not the reality. There are a host of reasons why this occurs. If you pay attention to this it can be a difference maker. Alignment matters. Invest in alignment early. Make sure when you say “growth,” everyone understands and agrees on what “growth” looks like. Be clear on the when, what and where – otherwise you might end up with “growth” in many unexpected places and ways.
- Build support and advocacy in the next level of leadership. This is key because it is where strategy gets operationalized. Create a guiding coalition of advocates who actively support and enable the strategy at this critical level in your organization. These folks are the strategy translators and interpreters. Invite them into the strategy dialogue.
- Culture eats strategy for lunch. Is your culture supportive of your strategy? For example: Are you asking people to take risks when inherently you have been risk adverse as an organization for years? If your strategy and culture aren’t aligned, your strategy will never be fully realized.
- Provide “air cover” for those who are taking risks and going first. When risk takers are rewarded, it’s a signal to the rest of your people that it’s okay to stretch themselves and embrace new routines, processes and behaviors.
- Be ready to adapt to the unexpected and unplanned. Without a doubt, there will be bumps in the road – no matter how much planning you do. Do you have the right metrics and measures in place to enable you to see shifts in markets and conditions and adapt accordingly? If not, this is an area to focus on.
- Less is more. Focus on doing the most important elements of your strategy well. Resource them for success. In the same HBR article, 9 in 10 managers felt the strategic initiatives were not properly resourced. That’s not setting your strategy up for success. Have you allocated the resources needed to each element of the strategy to enable it to be successful? Have you made the tough choices or are you hedging your bets by covering every possibility with a bit of resource – shortchanging all the initiatives? These are important questions to ask.
- People will tolerate the conclusions of your leaders, but will act upon their own conclusions. You need your people to have the same “ahas” about the strategy that your leaders have had. It is critical to invest in engaging your people in the strategy – simply telling them is not enough. Another set of slides is not the answer, as communication does not equal understanding. Think about how you can engage your people in a dialogue about your strategy. Create a line of sight from the strategy to their roles.
- Plan to celebrate early wins. Accolades and acknowledgement help to create motivation and excitement about the strategy. Strategy is 1/3 quality of the strategy itself and 2/3 how effectively your organization executes on it.
As the new year approaches, take the time to stand back and make an honest assessment of where you are with your 2017 strategy. The payback for the investment is significant. Work through the checklist and grade yourself against each of the checklist items. Where are the gaps? What can you do to close these gaps? Some thoughtful forward planning can pave the way for strategy execution success.