Issues in strategy implementation
In this multi-part series, I will explore strategy implementation and the hurdles entrepreneurs or CEOs face in this process. This is not going to be checklist of things to do in strategy execution. There is no such thing. Strategy execution is like a multi-horse chariot - if all the horses do not pull in one direction, you are not going anywhere. Your job as an entrepreneur or a CEO is to ensure all stakeholders are pulling your organization in the same direction.
Lawrence A. Bossidy former CEO Allied-Signal once said, “Strategies are intellectually simple; their execution is not.” I am quite sure any entrepreneur or CEO who has tried to implement strategy will agree. Strategy formulation requires managerial skills that is different from strategy execution. Successful strategy formulation requires business sense, shrewd industry and competitive analysis. On the other hand successful strategy implementation requires strong leadership, proper resource allocation, business processes and policies that support the strategy and a very high level of focus. It is an operations activity.
Strategy execution really tests a CEO or entrepreneur’s skills. It tests their ability to direct organizational change, motivate people, develop capabilities and develop an organizational culture to support the strategy. What makes strategy execution tougher is this range of activities that needs to be performed and the varied skills need to perform them - people skills being the foremost. Just because the management has decided on strategy does not mean that subordinates will follow and cooperate in its implementation.
There may be skeptics on the merits of the strategy. A number of issues are involved: vested interests, office politics, existing attitudes and ingrained practices all play a major role in strategy execution. There may also be people, who with their negative attitude bring the others down.
It takes adept leadership to communicate and convince all employees about the benefits of the new strategy. Senior executives cannot simply communicate with a few top managers and expect change to occur. It needs to be communicated through the organizational ranks. Moreover, different employees may interpret the new strategy differently. They may also have different ideas about how to execute it. Depending on how much organizational change is involved, strategy implementation can take several months to years.
Strategy implementation is not a task just for a few managers. In fact, it is for the whole organizational team, right from the management team to the front line employee. The key to successful implementation is to communicate the case for organizational change clearly and persuasively to all employees that they become committed and motivated to perform.
Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step check list and no proven methods for the job. All the CEO or entrepreneur has is experience and lessons learned from past mistakes. However, insights gleaned from such experiences may not work in a different situation. Different business practices, competition, culture, compensation, internal controls and policies, varying personalities and past history of the organization all influence strategy implementation.
There are however some basic things that need to be performed as part of the strategy implementation plan:
- Exert internal leadership needed to drive strategy implementation
- Building teams with competencies and capabilities that support the strategy
- Organizational structure and strategy implementation
- Allocate resources to those activities that lead to the strategic goals
- Establish policies that support the strategy
- Define performance objectives for the teams and tie rewards and incentives that further your strategy
- Incorporate best practices and push for continuous improvement
- Install an information and communication network to help internal information flow
- Develop a work culture and environment that supports your strategy
The next article in this series will deal with internal leadership and how it influences strategy implementation.Strategy categories.