Strategy execution: Why and how do organisations falter?

In a study of 1.2 lakh profiles, one out of five employees believed their organisation is weak at strategy execution. When and where do companies falter?

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The most successful brands and top organisations are known for their brilliant strategies, blockbuster products and breakthrough technology. However, rarely are organisations exceptional at execution. To execute a project well, it is essential to take extreme care of certain processes.

In a survey of 1.2 lakh profiles, one out of every five employees rated their organisation as weak at execution. When asked if they agreed with the statement, ‘Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action’, the majority answered in the negative.

Several studies have been attempted to find out why organisations fail to execute their strategies at a consistent rate. Robert Kaplan and David Norton, who created the balanced scorecard, condensed the issues organisations face while trying to execute a strategy down to four key barriers. Numerous new studies have piggy backed on these as they still stand true in today’s corporate world.

Kaplan and Norton mentioned vision, people, resources and management barriers as the four key hurdles that stand in the way of organisations trying to effectively implement a strategy.

Within these four barriers there are various roadblocks that keep hindering a plan’s path to fruition. Most organisations tend to fail when it comes to understanding how to overcome these roadblocks, and break past these barriers.

“Communication is the key  to executing a strategy successfully. Planning what to communicate, when to communicate and how to communicate helps in successful execution.”

Vivek Mehrotra, head assessments & OD consulting, Forum India

Strengthening the base

The beginning of a project is most crucial when it comes to getting things right. When organisations falter in the earlier stages, the base becomes unstable. This will obviously affect the execution of any strategy.

Therefore, studies suggest that organisations need to strengthen the foundation of the strategy. For this, they have to focus on two primary areas — setting the vision for the said strategy and then its implementation.

As organisations begin their strategy planning with a set vision of what the product should and could look like, it becomes essential for leaders to properly inform their employees about the plan and how to obtain the desired product or outcome.

Communicating appropriately

Communication is key at this stage as any information passed on during this initial phase, forms the foundation on which the strategy will be executed. Any cracks in the foundation can lead to the collapse of what may have started off as an excellent plan.

Vivek Mehrotra, head assessments & OD consulting, Forum India, emphasises the importance of communication, as “it is the key to executing a strategy successfully. Planning what to communicate, when to communicate and how to communicate (mode of communication) helps in successful execution.”

Ensuring capability

Ensuring that the organisation is structurally capable of implementing the said strategy is arguably one of the most important steps to building a foundation for the plan. Any structural changes in the execution team can result in unnecessary confusion in terms of expectations, roles and responsibilities. This, in turn, will lead to a volatile work environment.

Therefore, organisations should invest time to articulate and translate their vision into a tangible strategy. If the strategy appears vague and difficult to comprehend for those who need to implement it, the results will be way off the mark. Executives in charge of the project, therefore, need to be doubly sure of their goals to mitigate any anxiety when they run into a difficult situation.

“Companies often fail to celebrate small or big wins that impact strategy execution, no matter how good the strategy is.”

Uma Rao, CHRO, Granules India

 

Planning

Every strategy seems practical on paper. What many organisations fail to realise is that the planning stage is most essential and crucial when it comes to creating a strategy. It is important for organisations to take considerable time to fully understand their own plans before presenting them. Without planning well, it will be impossible for organisations to lay the foundation for successful strategy execution.

Motivating the teams

Uma Rao, CHRO, Granules India, believes, “the key aspects that ensure strategy execution are – how easy it is to understand, how well it’s being reviewed and how the company keeps their execution team engaged and in high spirits.”

“Companies often fail to celebrate small or big wins that impact strategy execution, no matter how good the strategy is,” Rao observes.

When looking at the implementation of a plan, organisations fail to see the importance of synchronising project horizons with their actualisation dates. In the absence of such a synchronisation, the team loses harmony and synchrony, which results in the failure of the implementation plans.

Avoiding gaps

During the implementation phase, it is common for companies’ operational and management control systems to create financial measures and targets for the strategy. These stipulations add very little value to the organisation’s long-term strategic objectives, slowing the entire execution process down.

This emphasis on short-term financial goals allows for a gap between the planning and implementation phase of a strategy.

Setting smart goals

Mehrotra’s advice to organisations looking to get better at strategy execution is, “Smart goal setting and its effective communication ensure alignment in the team, create an effective mechanism to track progress and help connect strategy and its importance, not just for the team but the organisation as a whole.”

Even though numerous theories have emerged to help organisations topple the barriers that may hinder strategy execution, it is incumbent on the organisation to form a structure tailored to strategy execution. One that minimises faults in the early stages of execution and acts as one unit.

2 COMMENTS

  1. 1. Not listening to the key people who have a stake in the process.
    2. Lack of transparency while recruiting manpower.
    3. Not empowering the team enough.
    4. Not upgrading technology, which is going to be used to execute the project.
    5. Going only by what is apparent, not exploring the real issues.
    6. Faulty goal setting.
    7. Not recruiting team players.
    8. Lack of networking with key policy makers at govt. level.

  2. “None does anything in an organisation alone”.
    This essentially implies more “cohesion” and “coherence”.
    Alignment (vertical, horizontal, longitudinal) between and among Functions is the no:1 issue.
    We did this: (took 3 years)
    Only way to do is to hold a
    Organisational Goal shared in a common platform of Teams: only Team Leaders interact [his team members are “non participant observer”-only. In this process, he sees, senses, understands, the process; in other words, team members are “baptised” into this never-ever tried team lab experiment], where every leader states his Goal.
    Say, in Manufacturing, Team Leader states his Goal of “X” tonnes of product in 2023-2024 (if he gets “A” quality raw materials in “B” time schedule. Materials man turns to Finance for funds, on time. After “negotiations” he strikes deal with Finance man (1 hour+) signs. Materials signs his SLA to Operations. Operations turns to HR for upskilling by 15%; HR agrees, signs SLA.
    Everyone states what he’ll do: Goal after getting SLA from others & his giving SLA to others.
    This goes on for 8-12 hours in a day.
    If there are 8 Functions, it might take 5-6 days or more.
    It doesn’t happen automatically. Organisational Goal outweighs inter-peer pressure alignment.
    You’ll start seeing first signs of “alignment” (amidst intra-team pressure not to commit measurements: Number, Quality, Cost, Delivery).
    It slowly evolves….
    (Goal sheet has 3 Goals)
    (just A4 size sheet).

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