When a business wants to carry out a strategy, there are two main parts. The formulation and implementation phases. Top leadership will often spend more time on the formulation. This is where they put together the policies and procedures that will be used to achieve the defined goals. Implementation is often left to the lower ranks and is where strategy often fails. So ultimately, even the greatest of strategies will fail if not executed well.
Strategy vs Execution. Which is More Important?
Both strategy and execution are equally important. It sometimes feels like execution should be given more weight. This can be attributed to research that indicates that as much as 90% of strategies fail during execution. However, in many cases, these failures are a result of problems in the formulation phase. Hence the need for leadership to more fully understand how one aspect affects the other and why execution can have such a high failure rate. Both strategy and execution need to receive adequate attention to avoid problems in the execution phase and ensure process optimization that will better guarantee strategic goals are met.
Why Executing Strategy is More Difficult than Formulating?
1. Planning and Execution are Done in Silos
As said, strategy formulation and execution functions are typically carried out by separate parties. Formulation of strategy is often the preserve of top management. They decide what is to be achieved and how it will be achieved. They formulate policies and procedures that are communicated to those in the lower ranks responsible for execution. However, often this communication is one-way and leads to problems that increase the risk of strategy failure.
Those in the lower ranks may not fully understand how their role contributes to the overall success of the strategy. If they were not consulted during planning, they feel less invested. Those in top leadership that give instructions without consulting those responsible for action also risk missing out on important information that would have better formulated their plans.
Success in executing strategy often hinges on the ability to incorporate the views of those responsible for the execution, granting them adequate authority, and ensuring good communication throughout the organization. Those responsible for planning must also make themselves a part of the execution team so they can be better placed to monitor progress and make amendments upon review.
2. Execution Requires Linking Strategies to Departments, Team, and Individual Goals
Strategic goals tend to be more generalized than the tactical actionable goals that those in lower ranks are focused on in their day-to-day activities. It is problematic to pursue the execution of a strategy when you do not fully understand how it pertains to your department, team, and individual goals. At this level, employees are more focused on adhering to financial budgets than strategy. This disconnect can be best addressed by ensuring effective communication that allows those in these departments to interact with planners so they better understand how their roles factor into the overall strategy success. It will also address any budgetary issues that will facilitate them in putting strategies into action.
Incentivizing employees to achieve the goals broken down from strategy planning will also help. Providing a reward system will make employees feel more invested and recognized for their efforts. It will also motivate them to keep working towards these goals, which can help improve the chances of strategy success.
3. Execution Requires Tactical Feedback Rather than Strategic
To determine if a strategy is working, it is important to be able to monitor progress. This feedback and review are however only effective where those responsible get reports on all the relevant parameters. Most management systems however tend to emphasize financial figures. This is not the only way to gauge the success of strategy execution.
Other relevant strategic drivers from operational activities will need to be identified and the mechanisms through which to track their progress. Data analytics services should also be leveraged to better manage the massive amounts of information that will be collected and allow for focus and easier understanding of what this means for their goals. Operational optimization built on tracking this progress will help ensure work is being conducted as efficiently and effectively as possible. An incentive system can also help encourage more prompt reporting while encouraging sustained efforts to achieve the organization’s strategies.
4. Time and Resource Scarcity
When entering into a new initiative or strategy, there is a need for time and resource allocation that will enable those responsible to carry out the execution. However, those that perform these tasks are regular employees who have their normal duties to perform. Just because you have a new project going does not mean your pre-existing responsibilities go away. So even with extra resources, they have just so many hours in a day to work with.
Organizations need to ensure that they are still able to keep up with normal services and that existing customers are not let down. They however still need to push for progress in their strategic plans as this is what will allow the business to keep growing and thrive. A balance must be found that allows employees to still satisfy the demands of clients without diminishing quality standards, while also pushing through with strategic changes that will benefit the business. Careful choice of employees that will be responsible for this is needed.
Engaging a consultant is a good way to ensure you gain the expertise needed to support this action during the implementation period and will also serve to train up other employees. Through consulting firms like MicroAgility, businesses can easily access the expertise needed to ensure successful strategy execution.
Businesses will often rise and fall based on their strategy implementation process. One of the key differences between successful and failed businesses is how they respond to challenges faced in the business environment. Because chances of failure are high in any change process, it makes sense to work with experts that can provide helpful guidance from formulation to execution. Working with consultants is a good way to have someone with relevant experience in strategy help to better plan, monitor progress, and quickly identify and address problems as they arise.