If strategy is identifying how to achieve/exceed objectives, implementation is all about making it happen. It’s the follow through. Implementation is where the treasure lies – and it’s the biggest gap in any business improvement programme.
The primary elements of successful companies are:
- Clear goals for everybody within the company that deliver the general strategy
- A method of measuring development towards those goals on a daily basis
- Clear responsibility, ownership and accountability for that process by everyone involved that is driven brilliantly by the managers and leaders
Those are the fundamentals. Beyond that, brilliant strategic execution requires having a systematic way of helping people grasp the current reality and then appropriately acting on it to exceed expectations every time, deliberately and on purpose.
Most companies don’t face their current realities very well. A key factor in leadership is to persuade people to face reality and then develop the “will” to want to do something positive about it. As Napoleon said, “a leader is one who faces reality … and deals in hope.”
You don’t need to be a business management expert to diagnose whether, or not, a company has a strong tradition of strategic execution and implementation … it’s generally apparent in several ways: –
- Levels of attrition of staff (and customers)
- Business outcomes being exceeded (or not!)
- The practices around hiring, on boarding and day to day performance management
- The levels of innovation and continuous improvement
- Reducing costs, increasing productivity and efficiency
- Retention of top performers (or not!)
- Increasing levels of customer service (or not!)
There are plenty of other tell-tale signs, here are some to consider:
- People in the organisation feel safe in expressing alternative view points
- They are not the first ones out the door in the evening
- They feel that it’s their company and they want to make it special
On the other hand if you have ever sat through a meeting run by the company head who asks, “Are there any questions?“, and the silence is deafening … well, you get the idea!
If meetings usually involve a protracted PowerPoint presentation packed with slides purporting to reveal all of the amazing things the presenting group has achieved; if others in the meeting sit quietly throughout, unwilling to ask questions or find flaws in floated ideas; if each person leaves the meeting without a clear understanding of what happens next; and if the lead supervisor sits quietly throughout then you definitely have every cause to be worried – this isn’t a culture of brilliant strategic execution.
Alternatively, if the presentation is brief and to the point; if the presenter sincerely highlights successes and difficulties; if others feel free to question and debate the presentation; if there is a common understanding among everybody in the room on goals and timelines and if participants leave the room with a clear feel of what needs to be done next, and who needs to do it, you are in all likelihood witnessing a strong culture of strategic implementation.
Interestingly it’s usually not the actions of the manager in the meeting room which will signal the nature of the culture. If a manager sits silently through an unquestioned presentation, he or she might be failing to do their job. The same goes for a manager that raises questions or suggests goals that are a surprise to others in the room.
However if a manager sits silently because the presenter does a fair critique as others freely weigh in and as every person leaves the room with a clear feel of goals, timelines and next steps then the manager is doing their job: they’ve created a successful culture of strategic execution which soon can begin to govern itself.