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5 critical success factors for strategy execution

Many strategies fail in execution. These critical success factors will ensure that your strategy is not one of them.

1. An Integrated Strategy with Clear Goals.

A good strategy describes the why, the what, and the how. These are tied to specific, quantified business outcomes. It is communicated in clear and concise language that everyone in the organisation can understand and relate to.

Most organisations of any size go on to have an IT strategy, and HR strategy, a Marketing strategy, etc.

These should answer the question:

  • "How will we use IT, etc. to deliver our strategy?"
    and not:
  • "What is the strategy for our IT department?"
This is a subtle but important distinction in achieving alignment.

In the video in this post, Michael Porter argues that strategy must be integrated. Organisations with "an IT strategy, an HR strategy, etc." are less likely to have a strategy at all.

2. Leadership Commitment from CEO Through Middle Management.

Leadership should be both engaged and aligned. There is no room for spectators or armchair critics. This includes the often-overlooked middle-management. Ownership and accountabilities should be clearly defined.

Strategy involves making choices. The best strategies result from choices between many attractive options. But this means the honest people might have preferred different choices.

A good strategy process recognises that there is a time to debate those differences of opinion and a time to align behind the strategic choices that have been made. The two should not be confused. It should be permissible for people to say: "That is not the choice I would have made were it up to me, but I accept and will align with that choice." Leaders who cannot align should choose to leave or be told to do so.

Once leaders are aligned, they should use every opportunity available to show this through their words and actions.

3. Deploy the right skills.

Inevitably, a new strategy requires an organisation to do things it had not been doing before.

This requires employees to demonstrate new capabilities and skills. Often times, employees won't have those skills. Or their capabilities in that area may be underdeveloped or even rusty.

To be successful, an organisation must either train its existing people in those capabilities and skills, or bring new people in who already have them.

Unfortunately, in some circumstances, the organisation will have to let people go if they are unable or unwilling to change. Although difficult, that may be for the best. No-one wants to be a square peg in a round hole. Organisations doing so should do so with dignity and support. Those that remain will judge the organisation based on how it treated those that left.

4. Adopt an Agile Mindset.

There are still instances where old-fashioned waterfall management of large programmes remains the only option. But they are becoming fewer and further between.

In all other instances, an agile mindset will fare better.

  • Break changes down into their smallest possible components. Sequences and deliver them incrementally.
  • Identify and address roadblocks quickly.
  • Accept that not everything will go to plan and not all changes will be successful.
    • Learn lessons from each success and failure and feed these back into the process.
    • Prepare to undo unsuccessfully steps. This will reduce the costs of failure relative to the benefits of the lessons learned.
    • Make adjustments to the plan on an ongoing basis. It is not cast in stone.

5. Monitor Progress Towards Outcomes.

It's easy to get swept up in the doing - the execution. However, it is important the organisation tracks not only:

  1. Is it doing what it set out to do?
    but also
  2. Is it achieving the outcomes it set out to achieve?

Of the two, the latter is by far the more important. And the more often overlooked. It also requires that your strategy was expressed with clear goals in the first place. (See success factor 1 above.)

Progress should be tracked monthly, if not weekly, and reported widely. It should be objective and transparent.

Inevitably, generating, recording, processing, analysing and reporting the data used for such KPIs will take some work. This work should be considered to be at least as important as the work to deliver the strategy itself.

If you're struggling with any of these critical success factors, please contact me for a free no-obligation consultation.

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