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Strategy execution



Beautifully crafted corporate strategies fail not because they are bad but because of poor execution. Strategy implementation is as critical as strategy formulation. The strategic cycle is not complete unless implementation is put in the equation.

Some business leaders think strategy formulation and not execution is their only main concern and so relegate implementation to those poorly qualified to see it through or they leave implementation on autopilot.
According to a Fortune magazine report published in 1999, nine out of ten organisations fail to implement their strategic plans for one or more of the reasons below: 60 percent of organisations don’t link strategy to budgeting, 75 percent of organisations don’t link employee incentives to strategy, 86 percent of business owners and managers spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy, 95 percent of a typical workforce doesn’t understand their organisation’s strategy.

An organisation should translate its strategy statement into a number of specific work assignments by developing detailed action plans which lists, in chronological order, all the action steps to be taken.
Each of these action steps should be assigned to key employees who should carry out the activities within an agreed deadline. The necessary resources should be allocated to each of the tasks.
Proper execution of a strategy requires an appropriate organisation structure. It is therefore very pertinent that an organisation puts in place a structure that will drive the strategy.

An organisation should ask if its intended strategy fits the current structure and if not the structure should be changed so that it is appropriate in driving the intended strategy. If you want to emphasise marketing, then your structure should have a marketing strategy.
Implementation requires relevant skills and an understanding, on the part of employees, of what the organisation intends to achieve. Human resources therefore play a key role in making strategies happen.
The first issue that needs to be looked at is communication of the strategic objectives and intended strategies to achieve those objectives.

Employees need to know exactly what they are required to contribute into the organisation so as to achieve the strategic goals. Business leaders should therefore articulate the strategies so that those charged with developing the corresponding action steps (tactics) fully understand the strategy they’re to implement.
The second issue is the impact of the strategies on the employee skills. New strategies might require new sets of skills which therefore calls for training or recruitment of the right skills.
As highlighted in the survey reported by Fortune magazine above, strategies fail because of a lack of a link between the strategic plan and the budget.

Strategies should be funded. Organizations should therefore commit finance in their budgets to implement strategies successfully. This ensures that there is a link between the strategic plan and the annual budget.
During implementation, an organisation should periodically take time to review the progress made towards achieving strategic objectives. This monitoring and controlling of the strategic plan helps in picking early any strategies that might be off the tangent. The organisation can then either change the schedule, or change the action steps (tactics), or actually change the strategy.

A significant benefit of the monitoring process is that it serves as an early warning system. It gives you the opportunity to communicate how you’re doing; where the problems and opportunities lie and what’s changed.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “However beautiful the strategy is, you should occasionally look at the results.”
Implementing a strategy requires the collective efforts of multiple organizational units, each working on different activities, but all working toward a common goal.

The critical issue therefore is to link the activities of the various organisational units to assure their collective efforts work in harmony. Linkages should be horizontally aligned with other departments and vertically from top to bottom.
Strategies also fail because of failure to clarify the organisation’s strategy to the lower level employees. Usually strategies are expressed as high-level statements that are only familiar to the board and executives but fall flat with middle management and frontline personnel.

Unfortunately, if people don’t understand the strategy, they will not connect with it. It’s important to clarify your strategy first then people in your organization can rally to support its implementation.
The clarification of the strategy will help tie together your strategic goals and objectives with action plans.
The strategy should be communicated to the employees at every level of the organisation using multiple mediums. You can use posters, internal blogs and message boards, and department meetings.
You can also hold discussions at each level, translating the organisation’s strategy to understandable and contextualized small bites, which connect to the work of individuals.

People need to understand the big picture. During this process, the strategy will cascade throughout the organisation and get to the practical and tactical components of people’s jobs every day.
Ideally, you will involve your managers in this process, and they will help to translate the elements of the strategy for your organisation to their own functional areas. Each employee should identify and associate his own role with the organisational purpose.
Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they are immediately translated into hard work”

  • Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy, advanced performance management and entrepreneurship.
    He is the Managing Consultant of Shekina Consulting (Pty) Ltd and provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans, tender documents and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.
    For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts:, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062.

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