Executing Strategy: Different Approaches to Consider

By Amanda Creter

We have already discussed strategy and some of the popular strategic techniques. Picking a strategy that speaks to you is the first step. But where do you go from there? Having a strategy in place isn’t enough. You need to be able to effectively execute that strategy to create long term success for your business, and most business owners will admit that execution is their number one struggle.

                So what is the key to business execution? Like strategy, there is no right answer. Many forms of business execution exist and each one has its place. Here are a few noteworthy examples to help you decide which best aligns with your specific strategy.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Covey, Huling, McChesney

·         Discipline 1 – Focus on the Wildly Important: In the simplest terms, the more you try to split your focus, the less you will end up accomplishing. This is often a hard task for leaders to practice, because they want to try and do it all. But to be successful, you need to focus on that wildly important goal and pursue avenues that are in line with helping you achieve that goal.

·         Discipline 2 – Act on the Lead Measures: This discipline focuses on the notion that not every action your team performs will be equal in importance. This is why the first discipline is so important. With a clear goal in mind, you can more easily identify which measures require your attention. Instead of focusing on Lag Measures (things that have already happened), you can then focus on Lead Measures (high impact items that need to be focused on within your company to achieve your goal and fix your Lag Measures).

·         Discipline 3 – Keep a Compelling Scoreboard: To maintain motivation you need to engage with your team in a way that drives them to succeed. When they know the “score” and whether or not they are “winning or losing” the level of performance and productivity will rise. The key to keeping score however, is that you allow them to create the scoreboard so that they can instantly and easily know their place on it.

·         Discipline 4 – Create a Cadence of Accountability: The first three disciplines set you up for execution, but it isn’t until the fourth discipline that you truly begin to execute. You do this by establishing a system of accountability. Unless your team is holding each other accountable, and being consistent with that accountability, you will not be able to achieve your goals. They have to know that they are being held to a certain standard, and that they can in return ask their teammates to hold to that standard as well. With regular accountability check ins, your team with be invested in achieving the goals you have set forth.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

·         The People Process: Focuses on looking into the future, instead of in the past or present. Most companies look at employees and evaluate whether or not they can do the job they are currently doing. According to Bossidy and Charan, you should be looking at employees and evaluating whether or not they can do the job of tomorrow. The types of assessments most companies have in place look at past performance, but don’t effectively asses future capabilities.

·         The Strategy Process: Are the people you have employed capable of executing your strategy? With an effective skills matrix in place, you can address the lack of certain areas of skill within your company before they compromise strategy.

·         The Operations Process: Most strategic visions require that skill levels change and advance over time. By having a system in place where employees can easily access learning materials to increase their skills, you help them achieve skill milestones that aid in your strategic objective and timeline.

The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage by Robert Kaplan and David Norton

·         Stage 1 – Develop the Strategy: This stage is heavily focused on conventional strategy. First you need to clearly outline your mission statement, values, and vision. From there, start to do an analysis, such as a SWOT analysis, on your competitors and market trends. Completing analysis’s like these will give you the information critical to developing your strategy.

·         Stage 2 – Plan the Strategy: Once you have developed your strategy, then transform your objectives and goals into short term plans of action. Create a plan, identify gaps, and implement your strategy accordingly.

·         Stage 3 – Align the Organization with the Strategy: Once you have a clear strategic plan in place based off of your mission, values, and vision, make sure you have articulately conveyed them to your team. If they do not see your dream and understand it the way you do, they cannot effectively implement strategy to help achieve those goals.

·         Stage 4 – Plan Operations: Align your strategy with the most important aspects of your business. Do not waste your time or your resources improving aspects of your business that are not absolutely vital to your strategy. Instead focus on the core processes that will help facilitate stronger strategic and operational ties.

·         Stage 5 – Monitor and Learn: Do not just sit back and assume that everyone understood your vision and is now executing strategy the way you desire. Check in frequently to get status updates and feedback. This way you learn of a problem in the strategic operation early on, and can address it as soon as possible.

·         Stage 6 – Test and Adapt the Strategy: Be pliable. At some point along the way your strategy will need to adapt. As you grow, your goals will begin to change, which will require a change in strategy. Over time you may also see a change in your market, whether it be consumer or competition, and to remain successful you will need to be able to adapt to that change. If your strategy fails early on, try a different tactic. Strategy is not a perfect science, and will require trial and error.

These are only a handful of the examples of Strategic Execution out there. No strategy is the same, and therefore no execution will be the same. Do your research, and create a strategic execution plan based on what you are trying to achieve. Many struggle with strategic execution, so don’t be surprised if you don’t succeed immediately. The key is to keep adjusting and adapting until you do.

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