Is strategy the best kept secret in your organization? Is your organization’s execution impervious to its strategy? Does your organization continuously and proactively advance and adapt its strategy? These are all answers you must ask yourself to be able to properly lead your business.
Lack of strategy execution
For several reasons, companies struggle to develop a strategy and execute that strategy successfully. On one end of the spectrum there are companies, consumed by their daily operations and fire-fighting, that have no time, interest or ability in developing and articulating a strategy for the future. Management and employees in such companies primarily focus on their routine work and spend little time on strategically advancing the organization to the next level. Their wheels are stuck rotating in status quo.
On the other end of the spectrum there are companies that have been burned by elaborate and time consuming strategic planning initiatives that produced no results. Often, due to fast changing market conditions, the plans were obsolete almost as soon as they were developed. In other situations, internal and external pressure led the management team and employees to execute in any manner possible to achieve their financial goals, and completely overlook or disregard their strategic plan. The strategic planning exercise was soon regarded in these companies as an exercise in futility. Strategy had unceremoniously died at the altar of execution.
The marriage of strategy and execution
Strategy is about making sure the organization is doing the right things and that those things are effective. Execution is about making sure that the organization is doing things to make that happen and doing it efficiently. Productivity equals effectiveness, efficiency and volume.
The productivity of an organization is a factor of doing the right things, doing them well and the quantity or volume of work done. Strategy and execution are both necessary components for a productive organization.
When companies do not execute a strategy, they stop evolving. Continuously advancing the strategy is as important a goal as delivering operational and financial results. If operations are the back wheel of your metaphorical business bicycle, strategy is the front wheel.
How do you strike the right balance? How do you spend the appropriate amount of time to develop a timely strategy and ensure your organization incorporates the strategy in its everyday execution?
As the leader, you must draw a line in the sand. You must communicate that developing and following a strategy is not a choice. The company may not need an expensive and laborious strategic plan, but it absolutely needs strategic thinking. And, strategic thinking not once a year during a management retreat, but multiple and regular strategic review sessions during the year to evaluate the company’s execution and modify the strategy as needed to adapt to changing external and internal conditions.
Strategic thinking and review sessions that are interspersed during the year will be less time consuming than annual retreats and closely reflect execution data and ground realities. These reviews will help the organization consciously and deliberately balance its long-term and short-term needs. Regular strategic reviews will ensure the organization does not forget the need to make strategic advances, and at the same time provide the impetus to adjust the operational and execution thrust to match the strategy.
This tight integration between strategy and execution will ensure that the two wheels of the business bicycle act in tandem. It will provide your organization a better sense of direction while providing it the agility and nimbleness to stay ahead of the competition.
Ravi Kathuria is president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting and executive coaching firm, and he is president of the Houston Strategy Forum. He is a recognized thought leader quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, WorldNews, and featured on CBS Radio and the BusinessMakers Show. He is the author of The Coherent Company; The Struggle for the Next Level - A Business Parable.