Why Strategy is Not Enough
Translating Strategy into Growth Through Execution
A quick search of the internet shows that there is a lot of literature currently being shared around strategy. What we feel is missing is the equal weight that execution has on the performance of your business and how execution excellence should be viewed as a key driver of growth and success.
How are Strategy and Execution Related?
We believe that execution excellence stems from purpose led strategy. Said another way, unless you have purpose-led strategy at the heart of your execution framework you can risk having brilliantly executed plans that do not actually achieve your business goals.
These goals will describe what you want to achieve and will be the key metrics against which you measure your success as a business.
The model below shows how Strategy and Execution are inextricably linked and how these drive the growth goals of businesses:
The first 3 steps of Purpose, Strategic Focus and Goals focus on the “why” and the “what” of the business, while the Initiatives & Tactics and Reporting define the “how” components.
The purpose of this article is not to address the first 3 components in-depth, but to provide the backdrop to successful execution that shows the relationships between these elements.
Where Execution Planning Begins
It is in Initiatives & Tactics where execution planning begins and where many businesses struggle, and it is here where execution often starts to fail.
This is where you will define what your people will be working, and as such, the initiatives and tactics should be carefully selected to ensure fit with the “Why” and “What” of your business.
Here are some the guidelines to ensuring that the selection of powerful initiatives and tactics:
Your initiatives and tactics should be very specific.
You must define what will be done, by whom in what time frame and with what specific outcome. Including an assessment of potential risks and roadblocks can enable you to mitigate these risks. Any functional interdependencies should also be highlighted to encourage a systemic perspective.
These initiatives and tactics will become the progress measure and should be included in your performance management systems to create a culture of execution where everyone knows what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they are doing.
Balance your time in the box and out of the box
There may be certain tactics that “have always worked” in your business and these may well continue to be impactful. Critically review past successful tactics to determine their future fit. There is strength in “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”, but you must ensure that is really “aint broke” before re-applying.
Brainstorming can identify new or disruptive tactics that might serve your purposes. Like a trained coach you should be asking questions like:
- “What else?”
- “What more?”
- “If you were the competition, what would you do about this?”
- “If money were not no object, what would you do?”
- “How does this answer what our customers want?”
- “How will this help us move towards achieving our goals?”
Don’t dwell too long here – agility and speed to market are critical – but ensure you have created sufficient space to avoid missing out on exceptional ideas.
Ruthless prioritisation: quality over quantity
Once you have all the ideas, you must begin the prioritisation process. This should be ruthless. You will gain more traction if you action the ideas that will deliver the most growth. It is better to do 5 things at 100% than 25 things at 50%.
The criteria used for this prioritisation is dependent on your goals and several lenses can be applied to drive your final choices. At a minimum you should be looking at impact for goal achievement and investment required.
Clear link to “why” and “what”
Each initiative and tactic must have a clear and defined link to your strategy and goals that is clearly articulated. Initiatives or tactics that do not move you towards your strategy, purpose and goals should be excluded early on.
Not only will this drive momentum toward your goals, but this will provide your employees with the knowledge that their work matters. This will create a positive cycle of improving engagement, reducing turnover, and supporting a culture of execution excellence.
Create balance in “what was done” (results) and “how it was done” (leadership competencies).
This will ensure you are creating a true performance culture where results are delivered the right way. A pure results focus ignores the impact that every individual has on culture and puts at risk the diversity, inclusion, and long-term culture of the business.
When you are curating a culture of execution excellence you need positive, engaged, future focused teams who individually and collectively embody the essence of the business.
This is another key area where business often fail in ensuring effective execution.
Execution excellence relies on taking the best set of actions towards achieving goals and the assessment of the impact of these actions.
This “best set of actions” will be impacted by external forces from time-to-time; things like market conditions, competitor actions and customer behaviour may decrease the effectiveness of your plans.
Routine performance reviews will enable you to quantify impact and will facilitate the early identification of potential and actual risks. This creates business wide visibility of performance and opportunities, and creates the agility required to pivot and adjust as necessary.
Take care to avoid “analysis paralysis” and establish routines that are not overly burdensome, simple is often best. While there are various software options available, you can also use a basic PowerPoint template that connects Purpose, Strategy and Goals to each initiative and tactic.
Execution is Key to Growth
Execution is the point at which all your planning comes to life.
It can either be scattered, weak and ineffective or it can be structured, focused and impactful. In the current environments of high competitive intensity and in a world where customers are increasingly inundated by choices, execution matters now more than ever.
On your journey to execution excellence remember that an execution focus means that you are constantly seeking improvement: always looking for ways to do better, to be better, and to provide better solutions for your customers.
Creating a culture of execution excellence can be a powerful differentiator that drives business businesses growth and success.