Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Effective Strategy Execution in 10 Steps

Effective Strategy Execution in 10 Steps
After you have defined your organization's strategy you can start implementing it. This is also called strategy execution. As explained in a previous article on strategy execution, I fully agree with the approach of Jeroen De Flander who defines this process as “helping people make small choices in line with a big choice”.

This article gives a 10 step approach on how to successfully execute your strategy.

Step 1: Visualize Your Strategy

One of the challenges of strategy execution is simply understanding what a strategy is. An effective way to improve this understanding is to visualize the strategy via an illustration that shows both the important elements of the strategy and how each relates to one another.

Frameworks such as the Strategy Map by Kaplan and Norton, the Activity Map by Michael Porter, or the Success Map by Andy Neely can help you with this.

Step 2: Measure Your Strategy

Key elements of your strategy should be assigned an easily understood performance measure. The full set of strategic performance measures can be organized into a dashboard, a Balanced Scorecard, or some other framework like OKRs, so everyone can determine if progress is being made toward executing the strategy.

Step 3: Communicate Your Strategy

It is close to impossible to execute your strategy when the strategy itself isn’t well understood, or performance relative to it is not communicated. Leaders must communicate their visualized strategy to the organization in a way that will help the organization understand not only what needs to be done, but why.

Transparent and clear communication creates the necessary understanding and engagement for the new/adapted strategy.

For example, one big strategy event and a single strategy e-mail are not nearly enough. Use other meeting platforms, discussion groups, informal and formal encounters, performance management sessions, intranets, websites, screensavers, coffee corners, billboards, and other means to communicate the strategy.

Step 4: Review Your Progress 

In the same way that financials are reviewed monthly, your strategy should be reviewed regularly. The focus of these reviews should be to determine if the strategy is producing results, not to control performance.

Your business strategy is a hypothesis. It’s your best estimate of the route to success … but it’s still an estimation. That’s why it’s crucial to take some time at the end of a cycle to go back and check your hypothesis. To check your strategy against reality.

Step 5: Make Decisions

Strategy execution is much like sailing a boat toward a planned destination. A defined course and a full complement of navigational charts will never eliminate the need to remain vigilant, to assess the environment, and to make corrections as conditions change. As part of regular strategy reviews you must make ongoing strategic decisions to keep the strategy current and on course.

Step 6: Identify and Categorize All Your Projects

Organizations may have many, if not hundreds, of projects ongoing at any point, but they rarely have a firm grasp on the type and range of these projects. The first step in improving project-oriented strategy execution is to capture and categorize all projects that are underway in and planned throughout an organization.

Once strategic goals have been defined, which is itself a nontrivial process, linking them to project proposals and your existing projects is relatively straightforward. Each project can be examined to see the extent to which it supports each of the strategic goals.

Step 7: Evaluate and Align Your Strategy Projects 

Once projects are captured, they must then be aligned to the strategies or goals for the organization. This step entails comparing each project, either proposed or ongoing, to the strategic goals to determine if alignment exists.

This is the activity in which your dreams run up against reality, your business strategy meets operations, and your resources are added to the strategy formula. This is one of the most difficult steps in strategy execution—and it’s also where execution quite often goes wrong.

This step is all about selecting, prioritizing and executing the right projects. The goal is not to choose the 10 project proposals with the highest return on investment, but to ensure that the projects map to the strategic goals of the business.

Step 8: Deliver Your Projects

Organizations must develop a capability in project management and execution in order to execute strategy effectively. A project not delivered means benefits not delivered, and for strategic projects this means the strategy is not executed (or part of it, anyway).

An important goal of your strategy execution should be to have a high project throughput. Get projects delivered fast so you start reaping your benefits, and your organization is freed up for new projects to deliver additional benefits.

For a typical organization this means three things:

1) Doing fewer projects in parallel. On average, just half of what you are doing now.
2) Focus on doing the right projects.
3) Focus on improving your project delivery capability.

Step 9: Align Individual Roles

Employees want to know they are making a meaningful contribution to their organization’s success. It’s up to senior leaders to ensure that employees at all levels can articulate and evaluate their personal roles toward the achievement of specific strategic goals.

This is perhaps one of the most critical aspects of the execution process.

Step 10: Reward Performance

In strategy execution, as in any other area of management, what gets measured gets done. Taking this one step further, what gets measured and rewarded gets done faster. After explaining the strategy and aligning your organization to it, senior managers institute the incentives that drive behaviors consistent with the strategy. Link individual objectives with the strategy at the organizational level.

No matter how well planned your strategy is, executing that strategy effectively is vital in order to achieve results. While this 10-step approach won’t guarantee strategy execution success, it will greatly improve your odds.

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