10Jun

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results – this famous quote by Sir Winston Churchill often comes to my mind when I participate in strategy presentations. Beautiful slideware beautifully presented for maximum impact – but hey! Wasn’t this the vision a quarter back, a year back or two years back and essentially the same strategy couched in the latest business buzz words? You may have discovered the same yourself and experienced a sense of déjà-vu – and we are not alone. Multiple business surveys have revealed that more than 60% of corporate strategies never end up getting executed.  The best thinkers and strategists could come together and create a superb vision for an organization but it remains just that – a recurring dream – if not followed by flawless execution. But that is no easy job especially in the current turbulent business environment, globally spread and diverse employees and non-hierarchical organization structures. All the different threads that make up an organization has to be woven together to create an environment where every initiative achieves its objective and on time.

So, how do you take a single line objective or goal in a strategy (say, develop talent in niche areas or target accelerated growth in emerging markets or create a culture of innovation) and convert that into a reality? I have worked on or observed quite a few of these initiatives and the results have varied – some died a quick death, some petered out and a few gathered momentum and achieved the desired objectives successfully. Here are five steps that I believe contribute immensely to operational agility and are critical to turn your strategic initiative into execution success:

Step # 1: Get organized

Building an execution plan is the very first step. The plan has to be doable, well-defined, and realistic with clear objectives and time lines. Break up the strategy into four or five tactical goals (too many leads to dilution of efforts) and define the tasks, accountability and workflow for each of them. A structure and the process within the structure helps answer the how, what, who and where behind the high level strategy and goes a long way into making the strategy actionable.

Step # 2: Get Executive Sponsorship

Most often, implementing a strategy involves working across different functions in an organization and you may or may not have control over their actions. Office politics, inter-personal dynamics, conflicting priorities could ruin your plan even before it gets off the drawing board. So get the full support of the heavy weights behind you – you will definitely need it to enforce discipline and collaboration. Get the full buy-in of your top management to make sure that they support not only the strategy, but also the specific plan you have prepared to execute it. Don’t even bother to start without this – you will get nowhere.

Step #3: Get the Right Talent

Build cross-functional teams around each initiative selecting each team member very judiciously based on ability, personal interest and the special skills needed for the particular initiative. Through this, not only do you get the right talent but also create a shared sense of ownership and responsibility thus spreading the commitment with the organization. This will help in building momentum to sustain the initiative from the planning to execution phase.

Step #4: Communicate, Communicate and Communicate

Communication is the life-giving oxygen at every step of the process. The rationale behind the strategic initiative and the implementation plan, the benefits that are expected as outcomes from the initiative and the impact of failure of the plan all need to be made transparent to the teams. Provide information, invite feedback and conduct training sessions to increase engagement and improve collaboration. Turn passive detractors into active and enthusiastic drivers of the process by using this powerful tool.

Step #5: Track and Measure

Set up a steady state tracking mechanism and a schedule for review with the key stakeholders. Choose the performance metrics that best measure the progress (or regress) of the goals of your initiative. It is important to track and measure so that you know if you are winning to celebrate (publicly) or not winning to do course corrections on the execution plan (again publicly). This underlines the seriousness of the initiative and helps overcome the “this too shall pass” mentality in organizations. And of course, what gets measured gets improved, so you end up increasing your chances of execution success.

Transforming a dream into a reality in business or in life is not easy nor is it guaranteed. But then who said business operations was easy? I have seen initiatives succeed using the above steps (and all of them are important for successful execution) and as Marcel Telles said – A company can seize extra-ordinary opportunities only if it is very good at the ordinary operations. So the journey may be tough but the rewards would definitely be worth it – at the very least, you would not have to sit through the same strategy being presented for the umpteenth time in a new shape.

Tell me what I have missed out and where I might be wrong. How do you turn your strategic initiative into execution success? I would love to learn from you and get better.

0 Comments:

    • Vish Agashe
    • June 10, 2012
    • Reply

    Suchi,

    Good article as always. One thing which I would emphasize here is that when strategy is defined, your teams need to internalize the strategy. They need to clearly understand big WHY behind each WHAT? Once team internalizes, many activities and actions start happening automatically. Good leaders know how to help employees internalize strategies, how to make components of strategy relevant to different team players.

    Vish

      • Suchitra Mishra
      • June 10, 2012
      • Reply

      Hello Vish,

      Agree with you there – the command and control style of leadership has become dysfunctional. Teams need to know and understand the value – at org level and at personal levels – for them to be active participants and enthusiastic supporters of any initiative. Strategy should not be created in a vacuum with no plan for internalization or bottoms-up involvement – it then remains as just another bullet point.

      Thanks for dropping by and all your support and encouragement.
      Regards,
      Suchitra

    • Adhy Hosen
    • June 15, 2012
    • Reply

    Hi Suchi,

    I might be just stating the obvious; but in order to execute, you need to actually ‘execute’. Again, I might just be stating the obvious or perhaps I might have inadvertently missed it when I read your post. Would you mind clarifying in which step do we actually execute the plan?

    It’s a terrific post nevertheless! Keep writing 🙂

    Cheers,
    Adhy

      • Suchitra Mishra
      • June 15, 2012
      • Reply

      You are right, Adhy – I missed stating that – execution should start after getting organized and getting executive support. Building the team should be an iterative process based on the plan for resource needs.
      Thanks for dropping and for pointing this out.

      Regards,
      Suchitra

    • Mergers and Acquisitions: Five steps to a Successful Organizational Integration – Business Operations Performance Management « Happy in the now…
    • July 08, 2012
    • Reply

    […] from multiple functions of  both entities that would be responsible for creating, monitoring and tracking the integration plan with tasks and timelines till all post-merger actions are completed.  If staff in the company […]

    • dineshdivekar
    • July 23, 2012
    • Reply

    Dear Suchitra,

    Nice article with graphics. However, I would have liked to see actual example of execution from your side. You could have given us the following information: –

    Step # 1: Get organized: – What did you do to stay organised? What where the resources and how did you align them?

    Step # 2: Get Executive Sponsorship: – What challenges did you face in getting this sponsorship? Was there resistance from any quarter? How did you overcome it?

    Step #3: Get the Right Talent: – How did you define what was ‘right’ for you?

    Step #5: Track and Measure: – What did you track and what did you measure? What are increased and what was decreased?

    Devoid of any example, experience of reading this article was like reading some theory book.

    My comments are straight forward. Objective was not to rub you wrong way!

    Thanks,

    Dinesh V Divekar

      • Suchitra Mishra
      • July 26, 2012
      • Reply

      Hello DInesh – Thanks for dropping by and for leaving a very valid comment. I agree with you that an actual case study would really add value to the post. However, I cannot do that except in the vaguest sense as I would otherwise be crossing the thin line of confidentiality clauses with my employer/s and clients.

      But one thing that I can guarantee you is that all my insights are based on and drawn from my work – life experiences. I don’t believe in theory unless it has been put to test in real life situations. And I write on topics that are close to my heart and have helped me learn and grow in my chosen areas.

      Regards,
      Suchitra

      P.S : You didn’t rub me the wrong way. I am actually glad that my post influenced you enough to share a great suggestion.

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