We are all familiar with the philosophical thought experiment: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Here’s another one: If an entrepreneur or leadership team formulates the most brilliant strategy leading to significant competitive advantage and impact but it never gets implemented, does it matter?
We are in an unprecedented time of opportunity and change. Every organization is continually sensing the shifting landscape and responding to it by formulating and adapting their strategies. Beyond just striving to remain competitive and deliver on their missions, organizations need to determine how to leverage technology for strategic advantage, react to global shocks caused by events such as the Covid pandemic and the unrest in Europe, and operate with greater responsibility and sustainability.
Organizations must do change well.
To survive and thrive, organizations must do change well. This applies to organizations of every size, industry, and sector – from Fortune 500 companies and governments to entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and non-profit organizations.
Surprisingly though, organizations struggle to move big ideas into action in an effective and timely manner and statistics abound that reflect this. A recent survey of graduate business curriculums even illuminates that strategy execution is often taught in a cursory manner, not covering the topic comprehensively or deeply enough to prepare leaders.
Strategy execution is a muscle that organizations need to build.
Effective strategy execution is the ability to define clear strategic intent and then translate it into organized effort across people, process, and technology with transparency, accountability, and intentional change management from end-to-end.
The key is to treat strategy execution as a critical capability of an organization, just like any other important function such as product development, sales, or customer care. Organizations need to build their strategy execution muscles.
Effective strategy execution requires:
- Clear, harmonized business direction – Rationalize, clearly articulate, decompose, and deconstruct strategies into requisite components such as goals and objectives. Target specific changes that people need to make so everyone understands how they fit into the strategy and what they need to do.
- Building capabilities – Strategically build capabilities versus delivering laundry lists of potentially disjointed initiatives. Capabilities are reusable components that differentiate an organization and help them achieve strategies, configure new products and services, and seamlessly interoperate with other organizations. Capabilities organize people, process, and technology in a coordinated way to facilitate change. They also provide focal points for decision-making, accountability, and investment.
- A business blueprint – Create a blueprint describing what the organization does at a high-level, such as what products and services it offers, what value it creates for customers and stakeholders, what capabilities it performs, and how it is organized. This blueprint, referred to as a business architecture, helps people understand what the organization does today, what it will look like in the future, and how it will get there.
- An end-to-end strategy execution approach – Create a formalized and cohesive process to develop strategies, architect changes, plan initiatives, execute solutions, and measure success. This process will require integrating many different teams and creating end-to-end transparency and accountability for the results.
- An enterprise mindset – Instill a customer-first and enterprise-first mindset. This requires partnership across business silos, enterprise level optimization, and big picture thinking.
Business architecture is the golden thread connecting strategy and execution.
You would never build your dream home without creating a blueprint, and you would not just start knocking down walls to build an addition onto your home without consulting a blueprint or certified structural engineer, right? Business architecture serves as an organization’s blueprint to translate and activate business strategies. It provides the scaffolding that connects all the ideas and teams together from end-to-end and ensures ongoing strategic alignment.
While the concept may seem obvious, building a business architecture – and leveraging it for strategy execution and strategic decision-making – is a new concept for many organizations. Once built though, having this capacity is a game changer.
Let’s start a conversation on strategy execution.
In my forthcoming book, Strategy to Reality, I provide a comprehensive guide and framework to help organizations build their end-to-end strategy execution ability and supporting business architecture practice, based on globally proven best practices.
I believe the power of clear intent translated into organized effort is what turns strategy into reality – and can change the world. Let’s start a conversation on better strategy execution. We will explore these concepts from different vantage points in future articles.