Strategy Execution

Basic Business Cents

Football coaches are fond of explaining a loss by assuring reporters that they had a sound game plan but the players just didn’t execute. In my opinion, that is just a cop out by insecure coaches as they have the responsibility to prepare the players. Tragically, that is also often the case in business.

Strategy Execution is an interesting term, but does that mean to implement it or kill it?  Unfortunately in many organizations strategy faces a slow death by neglect. It is just as necessary to develop and follow up on an execution plan, as it is to develop the strategic plan. Words without action are useless.

But, development and execution are not the only elements of good strategy management; communication and revision are also key elements to address.

Typically organizations look at their strategy as either brilliant or mediocre and their execution as brilliant or mediocre. The aim of the organization is usually developed by the top executive, followed by the top management team, who develops the strategy to reach that aim. This strategy is then handed down to employees to execute. In this way, each group can blame the other if desired results are not obtained.

We must remember that each employee has a brain and it is an asset that should not be overlooked by management. In addition, employees are closer to the work and usually closer to the customers.

Upon development of the strategy, it must be communicated to all employees in such manner that they fully understand and embrace it. In the past, strategy was often considered company confidential and many employees were considered to not have a need to know; they were just considered as arms and legs to do what they were told.

To obtain that level of understanding and enthusiastic buy in, in-depth discussion needs to be held with management willing to listen with an open mind to feedback. Ideally, all employees would be involved in the development of the strategy but that is not always possible. All people need to understand that communication is comprised of two parts, sending and receiving, so time must shared equally between presenting and listening. Reasons for the strategy, assumptions made, rationale, marketplace trends, available technology, etc., should be discussed and understood. It is always a good idea to document the assumptions because often we cannot remember at a later date why we made certain decisions.

Following the communication sessions, the strategy implementation can commence. The strategy is cascaded downward through the organization with each level defining the action required of them to meet the overall strategy. Leaders should be identified for each strategy and progress monitored at monthly meetings. Management should visit all work areas and discuss what problems are being encountered with the implementation of the new strategy. With full understanding of the strategy, the employees should feel empowered, not constrained. If not, management needs to investigate the obstacles and remove them. At this time, management needs to be flexible and if real problems are encountered, be willing to review and adjust the strategy. Mutual trust and respect must be obtained, up, down, and across the organization, so that employees are enabled and empowered to change if needed. A good strategic plan is a living document and grows with implementation and changes in the market. It should be dynamic, growing, and exciting.

Good strategy management does not just consist of development and execution, either of which can be brilliant or mediocre, but four elements-development, communication, execution, and revision. It then become “our plan” and is in a constant state of continual improvement, always keeping the aim in mind.