Developing a Culture of Strategy Execution

Strategy execution is a problem. In fact, a survey of CEOs revealed that strategy execution is the number one problem they face. Furthermore, it is estimated that over 60% of strategies are never executed.

In his book, What the CEO Wants You to Know, Ram Charan wrote, “Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes.”

However, becoming better at strategy execution does not have to be as hard as it can sometimes seem. All you really need to do is create a culture of strategy execution in your workplace, and then watch the results start rolling in.

Make Sure Accountability Is Hardwired

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. Similarly, there is a difference between doing work and achieving goals. A worker who does a lot is not as valuable as a worker who does less but who does the things that actually move you toward your strategic goals. That is why it is so important to create an environment where people are held accountable for the right tasks and for the right actions. You do this by choosing the right metrics, and helping them understand why those are the items that are important. At the end of the year, during performance reviews or other discussions with your employees, the evaluation shouldn’t be based on the number of tasks the person completed, but rather the amount/degree those person’s tasks moved the metrics you decided to monitor.

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This starts with making your strategic plans more transparent. If you communicate what the overall goal is – and how each employee’s tasks are designed to help achieve that goal – it makes it easier for employees to a.) see value in their jobs, and b.) track their actions towards that goal.

To see what I mean, let’s walk through a hypothetical:

You and the board are sitting in the annual meeting evaluating your strategic plan and business objectives for the upcoming year. This is a closed-door meeting. At the completion, you walk away with 3 overarching goals and metrics, along with some big projects and concepts to accomplish these goals. Each manager or supervisor – who was also not at this meeting – gets told of a few things their department needs to do by certain dates. In turn, these supervisors assign tasks to their team with the idea that once completed, it would help reach those targets. Now employees have a few new assignments on their to-do lists with no context as to why or information on the priority of these items. Not only are they not going to put the appropriate value on these tasks, but they likely will not be able to understand what business success looks like based on their actions.

However, now let’s say you did communicate all of the above to everyone. People know why they are doing things and what you’re looking for them to ultimately help accomplish. Not only are things getting accomplished, but reports are clearer and more streamlined.

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Communicating a Strategic Plan

If you have historically been more closed off with your strategies, then it can become harder to break that habit. You don’t need to tell employees about every single thing you and the rest of your C-Suite are coming up with, but you should be communicating the big objectives.

How do you start doing this?

  • Align your strategies with your mission and vision
  • Communicate strategies and objectives in orientations and training
  • If you have status meetings, talk about any new strategic efforts there
  • Make sure employees are clear on why they are doing the tasks they are doing
  • Show the metrics you are tracking and let employees have insights into how the company is doing when it comes to meeting those measurable objectives

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