“Strategy Execution is the responsibility that makes or breaks executives.” —Alan Branche and Sam Bodley-Scott
Execution and Implementation are two words often used interchangeably in many organizations as well as business articles and books. However, they have two very different connotations, especially when used in terms of strategy.
Strategy Implementation implies that it had not been within the business previously, i.e. either the business didn’t have a strategy in place or there is a new element to the existing organizational strategy. Also, it means that there will be a ‘start date’ and an ‘end date’ of the implementation. Basically, it is the term better suited to change management.
Whereas, Execution implies task level actions. There are several opportunities every day or every hour for an employee to execute the strategy.
Many people assume that the hardest thing about ‘Strategy’ is planning. ‘Knowing what to do’. Organizations fill their strategy roles with logical people having enough, ‘ideas’, but the simple reality is that ‘knowing what to do’ is bit easy however successful execution of the strategy is hard. People who know this skill are considered as a good strategist and they usually stand apart from the crowd.
Developing Capabilities to execute the strategy at all levels.
For leaders, this means cultivating aligned behaviors. Supporting strategy, requires changed behaviors at all levels – especially the top.
For managers, this means enhancing the engagement of people and teams. Managers must translate strategy into activities that are relevant to employees.
For individual contributors, this means developing skills. Employees should develop new abilities that directly support strategy execution.
- Most companies hit a roadblock in getting people to take action in areas that are unfamiliar. The solution is to make them practice in a safe environment before they engage in actions that put them at risk.
STRATEGY EXECUTION PLAN
A Strategy Execution Plan or implementation plan is a thorough plan that distinctly outlines the objectives of the strategy execution. It includes the activities that are required to achieve the objectives, who are liable for these activities and when are the objectives to be achieved.
The Strategy Execution plan is broadly divided into understanding 3 basic aspects:
Execution starts with a well-built alignment to the company’s future direction and key strategic priorities.
To achieve successful strategy execution, employees need a good understanding of:
- What is the strategy? It is essential that employees understand the overall direction of the organization and key strategic initiatives.
- Why is it important? Employees need to recognize the context of why the strategy was formulated. This includes an understanding of changing customer needs, competitive pressure, regulatory constraints and more.
- How will it be executed? The organization needs to know how the strategy will become a reality. It is particularly important that they understand their role in its execution. Who else is involved, the method, timing and how to balance short vs. long-term priorities.
Having awareness, understanding and clarity to these three drivers of alignment seems relatively simple.
Companies that are pro in execution spend a lot of time, money and effort in building necessary skills and capabilities. A diverse range of competencies is necessary for strategy execution. There are a couple of competencies that, when broadly developed, accelerate execution and deliver rapid business results. These include, but are not limited to:
- Business Acumen and Decision Making– It is essential that employees have a deep understanding of how the company makes money. Business acumen includes the drivers of profitability and cash flow, a market-focused approach to the business and looking at the bigger picture (i.e. having an understanding of the business and its interrelationships).
- Management and Leadership Skills– To speed up execution within their area of the business, leaders need to constructively align, motivate and develop their people. This includes foundational leadership skills and expertise in developing talent, performance management, coaching, feedback and more.
- Sales Skills and Focus on Accelerating Customer Results– It is essential that the organizations concentrating on sales have the capability to communicate the company’s value proposition, what it means to the client and how it will enable them to succeed.
The most important missing link in the execution equation is the mindset and it is also considered as the most challenging driver of execution. The right mindset around the company’s direction and strategic priorities deliver real business results.
The following are important drivers of the mindset:
- Belief– Employees believe that the strategy is the right way to go and that the organization can actually achieve it.
- Passion– Employees are pretty sure that the strategy is going to make a difference to the company, the customers and themselves.
- Urgency– Employees have a sense of urgency and understand that if they do not make the strategy a reality, it will compromise the future of the business. Execution should always be a priority.
In conclusion, the success of any organization depends upon how effectively they understand and adhere to the secrets of executing their strategies. And the success of any strategy depends on our ability to deal with the unexpected shortcomings and the prevailing circumstances, build capabilities within the organization and finally change the mindset (Growth Mindset) of the existing employees.