Execution has to be a part of a company’s strategy and its goals. It is the missing link between aspirations and results. As such, it is a major—indeed, the major—job of a business leader. If you don’t know how to execute, the whole of your effort as a leader will always be less than the sum of its parts.
― Larry Bossidy, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
You got your entire executive and leadership team in a series of workshops. You collaborated and devised an elegant strategy to improve performance and decimate your competition. You even came up with a perfect name for your strategic initiative!
Now, several months on, the results aren’t there. So what happened? Why does strategic intent not turn into execution reality?
Our experience is strategy and execution are not always in tight harmony. The “strategy whole” is often less than the sum of its “execution parts.”
For example, Donald Sull’s research reported in Harvard Business Review, Why Strategy Execution Unravels—and What to Do About It illustrates this problem. In surveying 8,000 managers in more than 250 companies, he found people are not working on their strategic priorities (that formed the basis of your budget):
- 51% say they can secure resources outside their strategic projects
- 11% note they can’t get all the resources they need for their strategic projects – likely because they are working on the less important things!
- Only 55% of middle managers can name even one of their company’s top 5 priorities – What hope do you have they directing the front-line execution talent on the right things?
- Over half of all top team members say they understand how significant priorities and initiatives fit together.
If you want your strategies to turn into a successful reality, do this:
- Involve your front and mid-level employees in developing your strategy
- As leaders, go to the front line and spend time explaining the “why.”
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. You can never overdo it.
- Stick to your priorities so it is not seen as the initiative du jour.