Strategy is important, but strategy alone is insufficient without considering its execution and impact on the organization. Most executives understand this, but find the transition from strategy development to execution to be challenging. A common misconception is that this challenging handoff happens due to weak management and/or organizational resistance. Exhortations to have stronger management and fight the organizational resistance only complicate the matter.
The problem comes from how most business people have been trained. The classic training for strategy involves a linear process, where:
• Data is gathered and analyzed
• Groups of high powered individuals sit in conference rooms to develop the strategies
• The strategies are placed into high powered financial models
• PowerPoint presentations are developed for board approval
• After board approval, the strategies are given to others to execute
Donald Sull from MIT Sloan School describes how widely this linear process has been taught and used. He also illustrates how academic research has struggled to validate the effectiveness of these approaches.
Strategy Execution Design
Effective strategy is developed and executed using an iterative or looping approach. This iterative approach assumes that some of the most important data, e.g., customer and competitor responses to the strategies, cannot be known until execution of those strategies begins. Further, to have one group developing the strategy and another group implementing it simply opens Pandora’s box for confusion, distraction and resistance.
Those who will be involved in execution should be included in developing the strategies. Since most meaningful changes and transformations require interrupting the current trajectory of business performance toward more desired strategic targets, it is imperative that those who will execute the strategies are involved from the beginning. As such, successful strategic executions are intentional and well planned to accomplish extraordinary results and position the business for greater competitive advantage
Strategic Execution Initiatives
KingChapman understands the importance of formalizing projects that successfully execute strategy. Critical projects and strategic initiatives allow employees within your organization to collaborate and think critically about ways to make the desired future a present reality. Integral to any project or initiative are clear outcomes to produce within a limited timeframe. In the process of delivering the value that critical projects and strategic initiatives make available, organizational capabilities get developed and engagement of the workforce expanded.
This first begins with leadership. Without a core of leadership committed to challenge and dislodge “business as usual” and exemplify the values of your organization, the likelihood of a successful strategic execution is limited, at best. Further, the leadership creates and articulates a future that compels people into action. What provides the vehicle for action and pulls for the coming together of people around a common purpose is through well-conceived critical projects and/or strategic initiatives.
Communication is essential for success in executing growth strategies. Accountability for leading growth strategies includes the accountability for the quality of communication. KingChapman has developed leadership communication techniques and tools for those leading growth strategies and organizational transformations.
While communication is a core role in executing growth strategies, it is often overlooked or considered an afterthought and delegated to a staff person.
Strategic Execution Initiatives must include the enrollment of stakeholders who matter most in its implementation. Planning for engagement of stakeholders is essential for people to collaborate and work in ways that will most effectively execute your strategy, transform your organization and achieve extraordinary results. Stakeholders are any persons or groups of persons who can have either a positive or negative impact on implementation. These include employees, customers, partners, suppliers and owners (i.e., shareholders).
“Fanning the flames of engagement is essential for getting the desired level of support you need”.
While you may realize the importance of engaging key stakeholders in change, the next steps are identifying them and then enrolling them in the future you are trying to create. We define enrollment as a process whereby someone authentically commits himself or herself to the realization of an idea (possibility or project). However, enrollment is not merely buy-in. The fully enrolled person does not feel like he or she bought into anything, but rather, that the idea is an extension of their own commitment. This takes a combination of planning, understanding the degree to which people are engaged and careful communications.
 Sull, Donald. Harvard Business Review.(2015). https://hbr.org/video/4013635003001/why-so-few-managers-understand-their-companys-strategy