Experts list the 5 key pillars of successful strategy execution
With 50% strategies completely failing at the execution phase, more has to be done to improve the odds of success.
Having covered the common mistakes made by businesses in strategy execution last week, this week we asked our panel of 50 execution experts their non-negotiables for making strategy execution work.
Our 50 experts gave various different answers, but within the answers were 5 glaring themes, each aiding the success of the next. Clarity of strategy, then allows teams to work on alignment, this gives employees accountability, and measurable metrics that they can focus on. Stats, expert insight, and some helpful tips are listed below.
1: Clarity on strategy
This section had 3 parts. Clarity on goals, clarity on the purpose of those goals, and the clarity of communication. From the feedback we received, this trifecta can make or break the strategy execution of a business. Nearly a third of employees in modern businesses cite communication and clarity as the sole reason for not being able to deliver work on time, meaning that a global loss of nearly $37 billion could be down to communication alone - staggering. Both Peter Munro, CFO of SMEs, and Roland Butler, Head of Product at Mid-size companies noted that purpose behind the strategy, as well as regular communication of strategy are key to execution. This was further hit home by Barry O’Reilly, and David Wilson, who both suggested that clarity and communication of goals creates a strong culture of accountability and empowerment, eliminating mediocrity.
Not only does strategic clarity account for a 31% increase in profitability and employee engagement, but it’s now more important than ever for managers/companies to provide clarity on goals with clear communication, as over 90% of those that have had a taste of remote working don’t plan to return to the office full time!
Another contributor, a COO of several enterprise organisations, suggested that clarity helps employees understand the viability of the strategy, as well as understanding the risks of failure which is key to various other business decisions. Chief of Operations, Guy Lock MBE, also agreed that clarity is pivotal in the delivery of a plan. To put it simply, clarity of strategy, and clear communication enhances a strong culture and accountability, in turn creating empowered and aligned employees with a clear idea of what success looks like, and how failure could occur.
2: Alignment of teams behind strategy
Alignment in a business is essentially everyone knowing what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, what part they play, and how they can work together, easy, right? Sadly, alignment issues seem to be a huge problem facing businesses, with recent stats suggesting that only a third of senior managers can name their companies top priorities. Manar Hussain, a Startup Founder and blog contributor, told us that with alignment in teams, your chances of success skyrocket, which was echoed by Piers Mudd, who stated that companies without this foundational component are on a path to mediocrity or failure.
You only need to look at the stats to see which suggest that aligned companies not only grow 19% faster revenue wise than those that are unaligned, but also gain 15% extra profit. That’s also just alignment at its most basic level, with other reports suggesting that highly aligned teams drive 208% more revenue. Another contributor, a senior project manager at Amazon, stated that the alignment of teams is key as it allows for accurate resource allocation, specifically to strategy underlined by customer need. Dominic Cameron, NED and Chairman of SaaS businesses also hinted at alignment being a key building block, as alignment is built on context, and allows for transparency and safe conversation when an quick pivot may be required (which can be much quicker in teams that are already aligned!)
Strategy execution should have the following 3 attributes. 1. Easily explainable to stakeholders, and team members. 2. Results in increased revenue, reduced costs, or increased competitive advantage or some combination of these 3. 3.Can actually be executed within a reasonable time horizon - Damien O'Connor
3: Accountability, ability, and empowerment of staff
Pat Summitt once said that “Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organisation can have”, a slight curve all for a strategy blog, but it remains true in business today. Recent studies have suggested that 93% of employees are unable to tie their daily work to business outcomes. This is a massively important stat, especially as 32% of employees want to see the progress they’ve made toward goals set by their manager and if not, 79% of employees suggest that they'll quit due to a lack of appreciation. Employees are craving accountability and empowerment!
As Guy Lock suggested, accountability comes after clarity of strategic plans, which was further emphasised by a Director of Strategic Operations at a fortune 100 company in our survey, who suggested accountability for delivery of goals is also essential, enforced by regular tracking of progress. How the above is done is also critical, with the organisation structure, culture and systems also being fully aligned with the company’s strategy.
Teams that are accountable, motivated, and capable, are able to make an increased amount of strategic and informed decisions, in line with a businesses strategy as CEO Oliver Cummings told us, with Shalom Passy in full agreement, citing the “Critical Chain” trio of Visibility, Transparency, and Empowerment for fulfilment of strategy execution.
4: Having measurable metrics
Goals, without metrics, are just ideas. Once goals have been clarified and set out, employees need to not only be able to measure their progress towards said goals, but also understand what success looks like against the set metrics.
96% of teams that set and track their goals hit some of their goals, 41% of which hit all of their goals - that’s nearly twice as good as businesses that don’t regularly track their progress.
Business strategy is about what NOT to do. A successful execution starts by understanding what are the things that you’re welling to let go in order to focus on executing the business strategy - Ahmed Abdelrahman, CTO
Both an MD of Fortune 100 companies and a head of organisational development listed measurement of metrics as a key pillar of successful businesses. Measuring metrics is measuring success, and allows for potential quick pivots due to trend spotting, as well as giving you potential leading indicators of future success. Individuals are 42% more likely to achieve goals when they are physically recorded. So what're you waiting for?
A good strategy is one that has a vision/north star and correctly resolves the diagnosed problem. It understands the issues of all stakeholders and has a good set of guidelines to execute it. It's one that learns from the past and takes best practises going forward. It takes into account the goals of the end user and works within the resources that exists - Saumya Surendran, Strategy Consultant, IBM
Perhaps mentioned more than any other tip was focus. Focus links to everything. Without clarity, alignment, measurable metrics, or accountability, there can be no focus. Will Maunder-Taylor suggested that focus through these means allows companies to move from the implicit to explicit need of both the business and their customers. Alex Mackenzie also commented on this, suggesting that focus is the last piece of the puzzle, a block built on the key metrics above. As these hurdles actually allow you to focus on what matters as Steve Higgins put, otherwise you’re left juggling and end up being busy doing nothing.
Goal Clarity Has A Direct Influence On Overall Motivation In The Workplace Psychological studies - (Arvey, Dewhirst, & Boling, 1976)
Strategic focus on execution is the art of focussing on the 20% of the business that yields results, cutting through the noise of the 80% that is good, but may not move the needle.
"A great strategy is in line with the values and mission of the company. It focuses on mid-term and long-term goals, which should be realistic and specific."