Strategy execution is well known to be the most challenging aspect of succeeding with strategy. Strategy design and all the conversations that go with it are easier to get right. Installing processes and getting the right people also come with difficulties but executing strategy has proved time and again to be the real mountain to climb. Good strategy often fails to deliver the expected outcomes due to failure in execution. In continuing the series on metaphors of strategy, this article features five aspects of strategy which propel success with execution.
Know what to do
Clarity about what is to be done can never be too much when it comes to strategy. The question of what the business is doing has to be clear to the executives and all other stakeholders. This clarity ensures that everybody is on the same page regarding what should be done to meet the corporate objectives. Without clarity, execution becomes vague and employees start to drift across a variety of mostly unproductive activities. Of course, clarity is a process of continuous improvement because communication requires consistency for it to produce clarity. Organisation should get clarity of action for execution to deliver its full benefits.
Know how to do
Strategy experts refer to competencies and capabilities. Without supporting know how, company strategy cannot succeed regardless of the level of clarity about what to do. People must have the right skills and knowledge, processes have to be aligned with what needs to be done and customers should be confident that the organization can deliver on its promises. The competence of employees and appropriate processes combined with the confidence of customers results in a synergy of strategic success. It also leads to strategic operations that are difficult for competitors to replicate even if they intend to.
Yet, building the required competencies is not automatic but a deliberate and mostly painstaking engagement of internal and external resources. Depending on the size of the organization, it takes several years to develop unique competencies that truly give advantages in the market. Without know-how, strategy execution fails.
Do what is to be done
So what if you know what to do and you have the required competencies? Strategy execution demands one more level of achievement – the actual doing of what is to be done. This is no exaggerated challenge as executives will admit having numerous repeated conversations about what should have been done but is yet to be done. Then the conversations are transferred from one meeting to another like repeat episodes of television shows. The lack of movement eventually increases despondency and a sense of failure.
One way to remedy this situation is to focus on progress rather than on completion. Small wins, more yes answers than no answers and consistent action create patterns of success for the organization to build upon. More so, strategic tasks can seem overwhelming for those to whom they have been assigned. A simple rule for doing is to ensure that something is being done which takes everyone closer to the expected end. Constructing consistency of action is more in the small steps than in the search for revolutionary action. Although immediate results are more often the focus of attention, the dominant evidence is that strategy takes time and best succeeds with the small wins.
Measure what is being done
It is a popular expression that what does not get measured never gets done. It is a simple expression but measurement of strategy in practice is not that simple. Potential roadblocks include identifying and applying the right measures, ensuring that measures align with the strategy and generating frequency of measurement. There can also be debates about the units of measurement, who should be responsible for measurement and the effects of measurement.
A balance of suitable measures is always recommended to cover employees, customers and processes rather than only financial which are mostly based on outcomes. Industry standards are also useful in determining what operators measure internally. Externally comparative measures in addition to internal measures challenge organizations to look outward and take a more competitive stance.
Reward what is done
As companies succeed with strategy, employees and other stakeholders should be beneficiaries of the results. Everybody appreciates being appreciated and appreciation triggers the desire to do more for rewarding organizations. When employees do the right things, they should receive suitable financial and non-financial rewards. Consumer products companies extend strategic rewards to distributors and agents to ensure that they are installed as part of the larger community.
Rewards should be advertised as widely as possible for public audiences to recognize that businesses are truly getting ahead with their objectives. When strategy is being successfully executed, those that are executing it at all levels should be included in the rewards. Rewards should not be limited to bonuses and financial benefits for top executives.
Strategy execution invites organizations to know what to do, get the know how, do what is to be done, measure what is to be done and reward what is done.