Strategy Execution - Give it the Respect It Deserves
A major reason for clients struggling to achieve consistent revenue growth stems from the lack an explicit and shared blueprint for strategy execution.
Executives do the planning, but the real work (where the rubber meets the road) gets done in the front lines, with those that have to deal with the real world and real customers demanding real value. The plan for execution is the who -what -when - how of an organization's plan for implementing and realizing the ultimate growth goals of a company’s strategy.
All too common feedback from clients:
"We have plenty of strategy - but what we don't have enough of is the ability to consistently execute."
"We've proved we can come up with a strategy, and it all looks great on paper..."
"What we can't seem to do well is - execute..."
Giselle Hudson is a speaker, author; Business Performance Improvement Consultant does a very nice job below of summing up the issues around the importance of having a detailed, clearly communicated and well aligned plan of execution. You might find these helpful pointers as you get ready for your annual planning of strategy. "Are you giving execution the respect it deserves? http://www.newsday.co.tt/businessday/0,165881.html N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012
We love to create, to plan, to think about “what if”. Life and business would be great if that was all that we were required to do to make progress: think up great ideas, concentrate on those ideas daily and one day we will awaken and find that we are now in the thick of our idea’s reality – we have arrived
Melissa Raffoni, lecturer at the MIT Sloan School says.
“Execution gets little intellectual respect. In contrast strategic planning has all the cachet and gets all the ink. Why? Because it rewards creativity, the most valued of intellectual endeavors. But experienced unit heads know that all the most creative, visionary strategic planning is useless if it isn’t translated into action.”
Our plans are usually based on what we would like to see, who we would like to become as a company and what we want to be most known for. We often involve a consulting firm to help us design our new strategy. We know from past experience that we need to stretch our people so we set goals that provide that stretch. Once we’re done planning we pass the numbers down to “operations”. We keep on top of quarterly numbers and if they come up short we immediately contact the people in charge telling them in no uncertain terms that they need to shape up or else!
This is how we execute and boy, what tremendous pressure this brings to bear on us emotionally, mentally and physically. Whenever there is a gap between promises made and results delivered most leaders tell me that they are having a problem with accountability. Why are people not doing what they’re supposed to do to implement the plan? The plan is clear. Why can’t they just do it?
If this is not execution then what is? Ram Charan, former professor in the Harvard Business School and the Kellogg School of Northwestern University describes it this way:
“Execution is a systematic process....of rigorously discussing how’s and what’s, questioning, tenaciously following through and ensuring accountability. In its most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it: The problem is that we don’t face reality very well".
Erika Andersen, founding partner of Proteus International says,
“In our experience, the main reason strategic planning fails is that it’s done in a kind of intellectual vacuum, without reference to current organizational reality. It’s way too easy to sit in a room for a couple of days (or in some cases – sadly – a couple of weeks or months) and come up with a plan that sounds good but that isn’t feasible. Most strategic plans simply don’t take into account people’s actual skills, time, understanding, capability, values and motivation.”
You have to first involve all the people responsible for the strategic plan’s outcome – including key production people – in shaping the plan. They would set goals based on the organization’s capability for delivering results. Next you need to ask your people how specifically, how they are going to achieve their projected demand on a timely basis.
How many meetings have you attended where everyone left the room without any firm conclusions about who would do what by when? Everybody agreed that the idea was good but once no one had been named accountable for results it never got done. Other things ALWAYS got in the way that seemed more important. If a plan is to be implemented milestones must be set with strict accountability for the people in charge clearly stating: who is responsible for doing what by when.