Strategy Execution

HBR is dusting off some old but useful articles in this collection Maximize Your Strategy.   

Three Keys to Effective Execution at least makes the point that great strategy is no use if it is not implemented well and fast. Unfortunately, the advice is a bit too self-evident and general to be helpful – you should [a] maintain your focus [b] develop tracking systems and [c] set up formal reviews.

Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance reports research on the large gap between hoped-for and realised results from strategic plans, and offers some rules to close the gap – good-enough pointers, if again rather self-evident and generic:

  1. Keep it simple, make it concrete
  2. Debate assumptions, not forecasts
  3. Use a rigorous framework, speak a common language
  4. Discuss resource deployments early
  5. Clearly identify priorities
  6. Continuously monitor performance
  7. Develop and reward execution capabilities

I particular, it’s clearly a great idea to use rigorous frameworks and speak a common language – but the strategy field offers no such rigor, so not clear where the authors think this will come from.  

Transforming Corner-Office Strategy into Frontline Action urges creating a “memorable and actionable phrase that distills a company’s corporate strategy into its unique essence and communicates it across an organization”. This will, it is claimed focus everyone in an organization–executives and line managers alike–on the same strategic objectives. Unfortunately, the article offers no idea on how any of those folk are supposed to work out what to do, when and how much, and link with what everyone else is doing, to deliver performance outcomes.

Promise-based Management claims that the essence of execution lies in the commitments people make to colleagues and customers. Important, of course, but ‘the essence’ of strategy? There’s no clue how folk are supposed to work out what exactly to commit to.  

Here’s a puzzle, though – this and tons of other good advice has been around for ever, and read by just about every decent senior executive. So how come we continue to see weak and disastrous strategies like those that drove the current recession?

One thought on “Strategy Execution

  1. Another article I would recommend is

    Strategy Execution:
    The Next Major “Point of Inflection”
    By Peter S. DeLisi
    Director, Information Technology Leadership Program,
    Santa Clara University Executive Development Center
    and President, Organizational Strategies

    My anwser to your puzzle is the same as the answer to why strategy fails to be executed:

    No one sets out to fail when implementing strategy but they do nine out of ten times. Just as no one sets out to craft a bad strategy! The only way we know a strategy is bad is by implementing it. The only way we know if an implementation is working is by reviewing it.

    The only way we move forward is by implenting the learning not just reading it.

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