Executive Education

Bridging the gap between strategy and execution

By Mike Roe, CEO at Footdown
Executive Education
Published: 25 October 2017

In an intensely competitive business environment and with the increasing speed of technology-enabled change, the importance of strategy implementation has increased exponentially. Even the best-laid strategies are useless without proper implementation and according to a study published by the Project Management Institute 61% of companies struggle to bridge the gap between strategy and execution and, on average, only 56% of strategic initiatives are successfully implemented.

And because corporate strategy is by its nature conceptual, complex and never linear it’s very difficult to pinpoint the reason behind failed strategies that were supposed to accelerate growth and provide crucial competitive advantages.

So what should business leaders do to ensure they close the gap between strategy and execution to see their carefully laid plans brought to fruition?

Alignment is crucial
In order to create a cohesive strategic plan that engages the whole team, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Take a step back and look at your business from a 360° perspective. Where are the potential holes in your processes that are hindering the implementation of your business strategy?

To achieve this, communication top to bottom and vice versa is crucial.

Many executives believe that relentlessly communicating the strategy through countless emails and meetings will enable flawless execution as well. But in reality, what really counts is how well key leaders understand what’s communicated.

Also, everyone needs to be open, clear, and honest. By being up-front about the problems you’re trying to address, what you need to accomplish, and what input you need from your team, you can build a trusting relationship and get them on board with what needs to be done.

Of course, achieving these valuable insights and aligning numerous teams becomes increasingly complex in a convoluted corporate environment with branches and offices spanning various industries and countries across the globe.

Making sense of organisational layers
Thankfully, nowadays, business executives can access innovative intelligence platforms that empower them to make sense of the many organisational layers and teams there are while improving business execution in a short period of time.

By listening to employees’ feedback and opinions key leaders can coordinate activities across teams better and cascade goals downward in the organisation effectively. In this way business executives can also create a detailed and clear road map that specifies who should do what, by when, and with what resources.

A critical aspect of strategic planning is that it cannot remain fixed when in contact with day to day reality. No plan can anticipate every event that might help or hinder a company trying to achieve its strategic objectives. Managers and employees at every level need to adapt to facts on the ground, surmount unexpected obstacles, and take advantage of fleeting opportunities.

Periodic feedback
To enable this kind of organisational agility business leaders should also implement a periodic feedback system ensuring that the entire organisation understands and engages with set objectives.

Even if you have a brilliant strategic plan, it will not deliver the desired business outcomes unless your team owns it. It is key for each team to understand why they’re doing it and the direct impact it will have on their department or organisation.

If everyone can see their piece of the larger organisational puzzle and how they fit in, they’ll be more likely to complete the actions they’ve been assigned. Also, everyone needs to be held accountable with consistent team updates.

Strategic interdepartmental alignment is also crucial for a successful strategic execution. According to researchers, only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other functions and units ‘all the time’, and just half say they can rely on them ‘most of the time’. This can create serious gaps between strategy and execution so it’s of paramount importance for all team managers to remain focused, engaged, aligned and committed to the planning process from the beginning to the end.

Leadership buy-in
Another important factor in bridging the gap between strategy and execution is leadership buy-in and support. C-suite executives should identify and focus on the key initiatives and projects that are strategically relevant. These include general oversight, leading and supporting strategic initiatives, and communication.

Finding the right balance between leading a structured process and concentrating all decision making power at the top is also a high priority.

Top down execution can easily unravel with the departure of a strong CEO and it also diminishes middle managers’ decision-making skills, initiative, and ownership of results.

There is no silver bullet recipe for achieving better strategic implementation as each organisational environment is a unique and complex ecosystem, but companies that have a good level of C-suite involvement, efficient feedback mechanisms and robust processes have the best chance of becoming highly successful at implementing the right strategy and staying ahead of the competition.

For more information visit footdown.com