You've just completed your strategic planning process, and your executive team is pumped up. The plan is ambitious. Yes, with some challenges, but the motivation and belief in the successful execution of your strategies are strong. Yet, after one, two, or three years, the execution doesn't meet expectations. Worse yet, throughout the year, you find yourself making decisions contrary to what was determined during your planning.
If this situation sounds familiar, know that you're not alone. Many studies have concluded that the vast majority of strategic plans are never executed 100%; in reality, 70% of them are not completed. But take heart, there is a solution! Your ability to execute business strategies is linked to three major factors.
1. Understanding and Awareness
Everything starts with the leaders' ability to communicate and mobilize their teams, ensuring they prioritize and carry out the right actions. This means that the entire executive team must have the same understanding and tell the same story, aiming to send the most uniform message possible to the teams. Consider creating ambassadors for your company's strategic message, a common practice in high-performing companies.
To carry the message, the strategic story "the journey" should promote the reasons why the organization should adopt the strategies from your plan. As Steve Jobs mentions in his book "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs", an inspiring and catchy speech must have two components: a villain, to justify the urgency to act, and a hero expressed by the benefits of acting. The message must clearly lay out the strategies, priorities, and actions for the entire organization. Finally, the message must present the expected outcomes from managers and their teams, emphasizing their role in execution and the necessity for collaboration. This effort is documented in the communication plan detailing the objectives, means, audience, message, and frequency.
2. Rigor and System Agility
Without a rigorous management framework, the chances of realizing your strategies are slim. Defining the parameters of its execution should be part of the strategic planning process because most of the time, if the ability to execute is missing, it must become a strategic priority for the company. Here are the main components of an effective management framework:
An effective management framework must prioritize transparency, commitment, and accountability. To achieve this, it's essential to identify the model for monitoring execution, which includes discussion forums, means, tools, frequency, measurement, and feedback.
Strategic and operational meetings are the most common modes of discussion for execution. A meeting architecture is highly needed to increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Who should attend? What's the primary objective and agenda we should follow? How often? How long?
Whether from an Excel spreadsheet, a dashboard, or a strategy-execution software like OKRs, visualizing execution progress is essential. You can't improve what you can't measure, and regardless of its form, it must focus on results and the right actions to take.
Lastly, depending on the chosen forums, means, and tools, daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual rhythms enable better execution agility.
3. Culture and Leadership
The executive team doesn't execute the strategy; that's the role of their teams. Thus, it's paramount that your managers understand how to create a conducive environment for success. Communicate, listen, coach, delegate, offer feedback, and elevate each member of their teams - these are their primary roles.
Creating a sense of team engagement and contribution is fundamental. Execution is experienced in communication, problem-solving, innovation, and decentralized decision-making. Your managers shouldn't dictate what to do; they should invite their teams to be part of the solution, fostering collective intelligence.
Finally, merit, recognition, and celebration are powerful feedback tools that nurture the sense of achievement and belonging in your teams. Your human capital is a vital asset that must be cared for.
The complexity associated with executing your strategies is significant because it requires aligning and establishing synergy between these three pillars. Investing in your execution capacity is the best decision you can make because if it increases, all your resources will yield a higher return.