MBA trained managers usually know about the theory of strategic planning, but they know very little about business execution i.e. how to execute a plan - according to the book “Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change.”
A survey of senior executives at 197 companies showed that firms seldom achieve the expected results of their strategic plans, and the key reason for this failure is they don’t know how to execute effectively.
Here is our take on the survey findings:
Lack of strategic focus.
Many companies do not understand the importance of clarifying their Value Discipline (generic strategy). They try to compete on efficiencies, personal service, and innovation simultaneously - showing the lack of a disciplined strategic planning and decision making process. If you don’t know what strategic "game" you are playing, you are destined to never win. Do you have a winning strategy?
Resistance to change.
If your key people don’t agree with your strategic decisions, they are unlikely to carry them out effectively. They may have a valid point if the strategy was poorly conceived in the boardroom, without thinking through the long-term implications for your brand. Ideally, involve people from different functional areas and levels in your strategic planning process. As one of my colleagues likes to say, “Those who plan the fight - don’t fight the plan.”
Most plans fail simply because they are not well communicated to the people at the coalface, and their execution progress is not being closely managed. If your people can’t answer the question, “What are the company's top 3 Strategic Projects for the quarter?" - it is the leadership who is not doing an effective job.
We find that capturing your decisions on a One Page Strategic Plan is the most effective way to share your strategy and align your people.
Staff incentives not aligned with strategy.
If your performance management systems are not aligned to the company Strategic Projects – your people will continue to focus on what they believe is in their own best interests (which may not be aligned the execution of your strategy).
Management not paying attention.
Less than 15% of companies track how they actually perform vs. what they planned to achieve in terms of strategy execution. That's an appalling statistic. You get what you inspect – not what you expect. Effective companies use business execution software to track and drive strategic execution progress – every week.
Firstly: Strategic planning should be an ongoing process - not an annual event. Your strategic plan should be updated every 90 Days to ensure relevance with the competitive environment and to align all staff at the beginning of every quarter.
Secondly: You need to conduct well-structured "execution meetings" every week with your team members to hold them accountable for execution progress. What one thing can you get done this week to help move your strategic priorities forward?
Thirdly: At the end of every quarter you review and debrief the actual results, “bank the learnings”, and take the necessary corrective actions to improve your strategy, and clarify the top three business execution priorities for the following quarter.
Photo credit: Carl Silver