Making Strategy Work is More Difficult Than Strategy Making

| Published by Mark Akerley under Newsletters |

No one ever said that honing the best strategy for your company is easy. It takes good research, creativity, holistic thinking, risk taking and sometimes a bit of intuition. A formidable task, it is expedited by the promise of improved results and a brighter future. My experience with numerous companies reveals that executing the strategy is much more difficult. Achieving planned results requires four key elements: laser-like focus on critical tasks, brutal-truth decision-making, adapting to change and follow-through. Let’s explore each a little further.

Focus. High level goals can be motivating, even inspiring. Broken down, they usually consist of more mundane tasks and sequential steps that must be completed on time and on target to accomplish the goal. As a business leader, you identify those critical tasks that will have the greatest impact on achieving a goal and then stay on them like “white on rice,” never diverting attention until the tasks are completed. Using the Pareto Principle (the 80-20 rule, the law of the Vital Few) is imperative. Identify those few critical tasks that must be done in a certain time period, assess progress frequently and well before task completion dates and ask tough questions (why!) if you’re not getting the progress you expect.

Decision Making. Strategic decision making requires more than decisions about the “why” and “what.” It required decisions about the “how,” the “who” and the “when.” As a leader, you have to provide momentum and insure progress. Many business chiefs assume that committed, effective and timely implementation will yield planned results without their ongoing personal involvement. Don’t be among them.

Change. By definition, strategy calls for achieving something different than what had been achieved in the past, e.g., more sales, greater profits, new products, new services, etc. Of course, that means change, and we all know that most people resist change. As a business leader, you not only need to communicate the strategy, you also need to lead the change by helping every person understand, accept and embrace the new world.

Follow-through.
A strategic plan will usually get people pointed in the right direction and get things moving. But it is not a metronome that keeps activity moving at a certain pace, nor is it a rule book that tells you what to do when things don’t go as expected. As a business leader, you must execute strategy by turning the strategic plan into a strategic process. A good process regularly and systematically identifies progress; shortfalls; unanticipated events and circumstances, both positive and negative; and adjusts goals, strategies and actions as necessary. A robust follow-through process includes frequent plan reviews and regular input from outside experts and respected advisors who offer points of view to challenge assumptions.

As Michael Porter, the dean of strategy gurus, stated, “A poor strategy executed well is always better than a great strategy executed poorly.” So execute, execute, execute – and use these execution tips to help you achieve success.


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