Our strategy execution guide
Your guide to strategy execution across the full strategy cycle with advice, templates, eBooks, and guides covering strategic planning, strategy deployment, and strategy execution
The complete guide to strategy execution
Delivering our strategic goals has never been more important – so why do businesses fail?
There’s no doubt the difficulties of delivery. Whether at a corporate level or coordinating plants and manufacturing lines, there’s something inherently challenging with creating plans that withstand the pressures of operational reality.
The art of strategy execution needn’t be complicated, though. There is little mystery about how some organizations flourish while others struggle – it comes down to executing their vision.
Strategy execution requires transformation. Unfortunately, 40% of transformations fail.
Even with the greatest technology, knowledge workers, and consultancy firms available in 100+ years of management theory, we still fail to do one thing – deliver on our targets.
So, what can you do to create change, drive a culture of achievement, and empower your teams to achieve their goals?
With this guide, we explore why your organization is struggling to execute its strategy and the consequences that face you and your peers, but more importantly, what you can do to help change the mindset, process, and reality of strategy execution.
Read on to discover how you can put less effort into planning and aligning your goals to your operations and more into delivering scalable value through effective strategy execution.
What is strategy execution?
Strategy execution is the steps, processes, projects, and actions an organization takes to turn its strategy into operational reality. It covers everything in a business. From planning long-term goals that transform the organization to making day-to-day improvements that add incremental value to reaching your goals.
Strategy execution is the result of thousands of decisions every day, all taken by employees in support of achieving your goals.
Traditionally, we think of strategy as a plan to bring to life a vision. But dig a little deeper, and we see different areas of the business which must act as one:
- Operations – Business as usual work delivery
- Improvement – systematically making improvements to drive down waste (operational excellence)
- Strategy – transformational activity over three-five years (strategy execution)
When we look towards defining strategy execution, we cannot do so without acknowledging the different elements which make up your business’ drive towards its goals.
This leads to three different stages of managing your strategy execution:
Developing a vision and set of objectives and initiatives based on the voice of the customer that delivers a step-change in performance for the organization, aligned to the business’ policy.
The translation of the strategy into breakthrough goals and improvement priorities, the required resources, metrics, and defined activities to support the achievement of the strategy.
The operational activity of the strategy – the projects, activity, measures, performance management, and countermeasures associated with reaching the objectives and benefits of the strategy.
What are the steps for strategic execution?
While the steps you take towards strategy execution can vary, you will typically follow this series, using a PDCA mindset in the execution and tracking phase to reflect and improve:
- Setting your true north/vision and mission/purpose
- Creating and sticking to your strategic plan
- Aligning all your portfolios and projects of work to your goals
- Involving your employees in setting goals with a catchball goal-setting approach
- Communicating and maintaining your plan with the organization
- Creating measurement systems and dashboards to reinforce team performance and contribution to strategic goals
- Regularly reviewing and acting upon performance data, all the while monitoring strategic risks to ensure you can plan different scenarios to action when you need to change direction
- Continuing to empower your business to support in all their efforts, but providing processes and structure to channel this energy back towards achieving your goals.
Strategy execution terminology cheat sheet
Get to know the a-z of strategy execution terms and jargon
- Alignment: Ensuring that your entire business is strategically fine-tuned in all their actions – resource, activity, measurements, communication and teams are aligned to what it is the business must achieve, as defined by the strategy, implementation and execution phases.
- Business policy: The business policy concerns itself with the purpose, organizational identity, what needs to be achieved, and utilization of resources to support any given strategy, project portfolio or task.
- Continuous improvement: A management approach which looks at increasing business effectiveness by reducing inefficiencies, frustrations, and waste (time, effort, material, etc.).
- Hoshin Kanri: Sometimes known as Hoshin planning, policy, goal or strategy Deployment – is a strategic planning process whereby strategic goals are communicated and translated into action.
- OGSM: Objective, goals, strategies and measures – a system that helps you to define your goals based on those which are broad, fixed and measurable, ensuring your actions and their measures link back to your strategy.
- OKR: Objectives and Key Results – a model that looks at outcomes, linked to your strategy, which examines outcomes on a fluid basis each quarter. OKRs are attached to action plans to ensure your key objectives and their results are measured and achievable.
- Operational management: The daily management of work within an organization, ensuring that production and other teams maintain their expected work. Process optimization from continuous improvement will feed into business-as-usual activity (standardized work) through operational management.
- Performance management: The process of measuring all projects and actions within using a tracking system, such as a bowling chart, traffic lights and countermeasure sheet to ensure that the strategy is being executed to expected levels, and if not, what needs to be done to correct this.
- Strategic framework: A strategic framework is a structured method to support an organization to achieve its strategy – popular examples include OKR, OGSM and Hoshin Kanri (policy deployment).
- Strategy execution management: The process of managing a strategy from its formulation through to execution, involving operational management, continuous improvement, transformation, performance management and leadership.
- Strategy execution: The operational activity of the strategy – the projects, activity, measurement, performance management, and countermeasures needed to make effective use of resource to reach the objectives of the strategy and realize the benefits of it.
- Strategy formulation: Also known as strategic planning, here you are developing a vision and set of objectives and initiatives which, based on the voice of the customer theory, will deliver a true step change in performance for the organization which aligns to the business’ policy.
- Strategy deployment: The translation of the strategy into breakthrough goals and improvement priorities, the required resources, metrics and defined activities to support the achievement of the strategy.
- Transformation: The approach of setting out a true step change in your existing performance – be that revenue, product offering etc, where you must make drastically different processes and management systems to achieve a performance level that transforms your business.
- Voice of the customer: The means of gauging and recording a customer’s experiences, expectations and wants from your business and then feeding this into your strategy and resulting strategy execution.
The strategy execution iceberg
The challenges of strategy execution begin with visibility. Planners and strategic managers only see the tip of the iceberg – a limited set of information about the opportunities to optimize their efforts.
However, beneath this sits a wealth of issues and quick wins hidden from view.
These cannot be addressed because your plants and manufacturing lines are disconnected from the top. This makes it hard for the value of one team in one location cannot be learned from and multiplied, for instance.
Without the autonomy and freedom for your teams to contribute to your planning and execution processes, the bedrock of value cannot be identified.
Gems, diamonds, and nuggets of insight are out of reach, and it is this lack of visibility that blocks you from achieving your goals, leading to further challenges.
While this guide does not provide a step-by-step system to follow to be successful, it is a collection of resources that will help you to re-evaluate how you manage strategy and move your organization to serve its customers better.
And when uncertainty and volatility reign supreme it becomes time to transform our mindset to ensure we’re adaptive to the “no normal” era. Click below to see how.
Building blocks of strategy execution
What does good strategy execution require?
Being good at executing strategic plans begins and ends with discipline.
Discipline to set a direction for your organization at the strategy creation stage.
Discipline to create long-term goals over 3-5 years and break these down into annual goals.
Discipline when empowering divisions, business units, and their leaders with the responsibility to know exactly what it is their team will be able to deliver, and sometimes go beyond, to achieve your goals.
Discipline to create portfolios, projects, and actions to move the organization toward success.
Discipline to use the right planning method – defined or your business system – to ensure everyone is aligned and acting towards achieving your goals.
Discipline to review performance and take a view on starting/stopping work which isn’t providing strategic value, and leaving ego at the door and instead putting data at the heart of the process.
Discipline to adapt your direction with the confidence and ability to mobilize resources.
And above all, the discipline to treat strategy execution with the importance it has.
Let’s take a closer look at the origins of strategy execution
Strategic management theory began in the 1950s with well-known thought leaders such as Drucker, Chandler, and Ansoff.
Their combined ideas fused business adaptation and organizational structure with corporate planning and decision-making.
This fuelled the 1960s enlightenment of strategic thinking, and numerous frameworks, such as:
Porter’s Five Forces
Value Chain Analysis
Let’s explore the theories behind strategy execution
A rapid influx of theories was born in the proceeding years, with names such as the Boston Consulting Group introducing its revolutionary experience curb analysis halfway through the decade.
In 1970, this growth in interest gave Professor Ellen Earle-Chaffee cause to review and clarify, with the hindsight of near 20 years of evolution, what strategic management stood for:
- Adapting the business to its environment
- Agility and complexities require quality, often creative, responses
- Providing direction to the entire business
- Formulating the strategy through process and implementing the strategy’s content
- It can be planned (intended) and unplanned (emergent)
- It will be created at multiple business levels It covers conceptual and analytical thinking
Emerging from this point of clarity, Chaffee spoke of two theories of strategy – linear and adaptive.
Linear strategy focuses on sequences. Goals lead to actions, and actions lead to results. Results are measured, and these feed new goals.
This form of Strategy Execution Management is prescriptive. It leaves little room for creativity or input from those executing the strategy.
At its simplest, it translates strategic management into little more than a tick-box exercise.
It is this line of thinking that influences leaders to approach implementation and execution in an autocratic manner.
Adaptive strategy concerns change – organizational processes, structures, skill sets, and resources.
The change is necessitated by the external environment, which is also the reason for strategic formulation in the first case.
This mindset largely reflects modern management because it is engaging and rewarding.
Leaders take ultimate responsibility for performance but share passion through effective communication and participatory techniques such as catchball.
Strategic frameworks provide clarity and inspiration to all your employees about how the business will strive for its vision, mission, and objectives.
Management by Objectives, also Results (MBR), aims to create and align objectives to operational activities, motivating staff by ensuring they know their roles and responsibilities.
The Four Disciplines of Execution – Focus, Leverage, Engagement, and Accountability – strip down the complexities of modern businesses to help leaders focus on setting quality objectives.
The Balanced Scorecard is an approach that helps businesses prioritize their objectives around finances, customers, processes, and products to deliver superior customer value.
Objectives, Goals, Strategies, and Measures use broad objectives, fixed and measurable goals, strategies to guide action, and measures to give a direct way to monitor performance.
Objectives and Key Results is a goal management system to help your business focus on important results transparently and aligned across teams and divisions.
Also known as Hoshin planning, policy, goal, or strategy deployment, Hoshin Kanri is a strategic planning process whereby strategic goals are communicated and translated into action.
Strategy execution tools
If the framework is the foundation and structure for the house, which is your strategy, it is the strategic tool that fills out that framework to add paint, furniture, and fittings.
A long-term vision for the company’s future – this is based on goals, long-term and flows from your mission, guiding your strategy and predicting the destination.
The gap between where you want your strategy to take your business and its current state. Also used to analyze internal resources and processes.
A technique to understand how value is created in your business via primary and support activities, leading to an action plan to deliver improvements.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats look at the internal and external factors, chances for success, and threats of failure, giving a general direction for what your strategy should be.
Valuable, Rare, Inimitable, and Organized, these tools uncover the internal resource which can provide your business with a sustainable competitive advantage to be harnessed.
PESTEL identifies external (macro) pressures on your organization, considering Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental (or Ethical) and Legal issues shaping strategic performance.
A participatory technique that sees negotiation and cooperation between divisions, departments, and functions to set goals aligned with a strategy.
A diagnostic tool that illustrates your existing strategic environment and the potential future state of the organization should be the strategy be executed correctly.
Sometimes used alongside an operating model canvas, the business model canvas helps you to understand your existing business model and how it creates, delivers, and reviews value for customers.
This analyzes a business’ design and readiness for its goals from 7 perspectives: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff, and skills.
This aligns strategy to the market, assessing your competition, supply chain, customer power, substitutions, and the likelihood of new market players.
The Seven Ps
A tool to generate a Go To Market strategy, defining Product, Place, Price, Promotion, Physical Evidence, People, and Processes.
Building a strategy execution culture
Strategic leaders know every person contributes to achieving goals.
Here, performance is measured regularly, with decisions aligned to a strategy that is adaptive to its environment.
A strategy execution culture plants its seeds in education and permeates your communications, critical thinking, and team DNA.
In business, as in life, learning from our past actions is an invaluable quality.
In strategy execution, that means borrowing from the continuous improvement mentality and putting into place measurements, tracking systems and knowledge storing techniques that allow for successes and failures to be analyzed.
Communication is at the heart of a strategic transformation. With learning in your business’ DNA, data will be collected and used to demonstrate performance and improve decision making.
Mutual trust and faith in your direction is formed, and through techniques such as catchball you can build participation in implementation and execution.
With learning and communication in place, your objectives, initiatives, projects and associated tasks will be aligned.
Every team member knows its place in the grand scheme, how their work supports the communal success, and ensures that everyone is on the same page – for their benefit and to the benefit of your business.
Critical thinking is paramount to your strategy’s success. At the planning stage you are asking your leaders to go beyond their existing knowledge of what is possible, all the while challenging team members to reach new levels of performance.
That requires a change in attitude, following the process and best endeavours to truly make breakthroughs.
Without establishing objectives, prioritizing processes to improve, setting targets (and measuring them), all the while securing the right resources to do this, you may wonder how businesses achieve their strategic goals.
Leadership begins at the top. Whether you are the CEO, CSO, COO etc., it is your role to embrace your vision, actively engaged in the planning, implementation and execution of your strategy, all the while balancing participation with management.
Strategic leadership begins with conscientiousness – of your internal and external market, the need for effective communication, tools and planning, all the while focusing the business on its goals.
Inspiring and driven, strategic leaders will touch every part of the conveyor belt, waking up every day knowing that transformation is something to be done, not watched from the sidelines.
Building a transformation team
Transformation requires resources – starting and ending with your team.
A strategic team is one that ranges from a strategy realization office through to the frontline staff who are working on the projects and tracking their efforts.
The ‘right’ person for your strategy is someone willing to learn, collaborate, communicate, and participate in every step of the process.
That person embraces all that makes up the strategy execution, and inspires those around them to grow. And that means your team will be composed of:
To provide the ultimate support of the direction
The strategy officer is responsible for owning the strategy
The people officer will operate in an HR function and is vital for communication and training
The operating officer will support with systems and processes to succeed
Strategy Realization Office
The top-level group managing the strategy
Enterprise Project Management Office
The mid-level group managing the strategy
Project Management Office
The front-line group managing the projects key to the strategy
Business Excellence Office
The group managing improvement work streams to provide incremental value to the strategy
Accountable for analyzing existing business architecture and supporting future changes
Lead project teams, create project plans and share learnings
Plan, execute, measure and install new processes
Subject Matter Expert
Key knowledge holders who can drive internal knowledge systems to support transformation
The benefits of strategy execution
The tangible and intangible benefits of strategy execution.
Resource utilization will great improve across the business
Show stronger ROI, impact, and benefits from your work
You\’ll become proactive and agile in how you deliver strategic goals
You\’ll plan and track a balanced strategic portfolio
Data drives your decision-making and financial planning
Staff will be motivated like never before with better communications, rewards and goal-setting participation
You\’ll upskill staff, lower churn and deliver learning opportunities in Six Sigma, Lean, and transformation
Showcase your people for their creativity and striving for excellence
Join objectives, people, resource and systems to one goal – your strategy
Common strategy execution challenges
These are the hurdles you need to clear
- Autocratic management
Where strategy is ‘done’ behind closed doors at business retreats among leaders – this makes for limited staff engagement.
- Bottom-up confusion
Where detractors of the strategic vision seek to derail the direction, devoid of accountability.
- Resource uncertainty
Where resources cannot be assigned, physical, human, material, or financial, to the transformation efforts.
The strains of daily management cloud the strategic initiative, likely due to reasons 1 through 3.
- Internal ignorance
Where leaders plead ignorance to the operational and market realities facing their business.
- No implementation
Where the strategic plan is executed without an implementation plan, thereby no resources, metrics, or rigor to execution.
- An inefficient patchwork of technologies
Countless Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, SharePoint folders, and A3 sheets of paper are the tools to manage your strategy.
The ROI of strategy execution
Going beyond ROI as the measure of strategic success
When considering success in the world of strategy execution, ROI is a key indicator. However, there are other measurements to be made:
- More engaged, motivated and happy staff
- A sense of belonging for every staff member, all aligned to your strategy
- Clarity and transparency of performance – limiting water cooler talk
- Better served customers make for longer, more valuable relationships
- Learning from the past embeds every ‘failure’ becoming an opportunity.
The strategy execution stats you need to know
of organizations fail to realize the benefits of their strategic portfolio mix
of companies who improve their customer experience report revenue
of staff are more engaged when their daily work aligns with their business’ mission
of leaders spend less than an hour each month planning, executing, and tracking strategy
Kaplan & Norton
The consequences of failed strategy execution
Getting strategy execution wrong can have many unintended consequences on the success of an organization.
These may be financial, operational or reputational in nature, but are likely to result in questions about the executive leadership’s effectiveness and stewardship.
One such example is the reverse takeover of the software division of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) by Micro Focus in 2017.
The graph shows the impact on Micro Focus’ share price over three years, we can see how a strategy – in this case, a merger – can be well received by the market. Still, subsequent failure to execute can cause significant damage to shareholders and corporate leadership.
Strategy execution templates, eBooks, blogs, webinars, and more
Learn more about strategy execution with our dedicated resource hub.
From jargon busters and case studies to webinars, this is the ultimate source of strategy execution insights.
The key to strategy execution
Download this eBook to learn how your organization can bridge the gaps between strategy, implementation and execution.
A comprehensive guide to strategy execution
The ultimate guide to strategy jargon
The future of business transformation
How AI will support strategy
Hoshin Kanri v OKR v OGSM
Hoshin Kanri v MBO v 4DX
The “W” strategic planning process
Are spreadsheets good for your goals?
Using the voice of the customer
How to lead strategy execution
Transformation x 4th industrial revolution
Critical thinking for strategic goals
Avoiding common strategy deployment mistakes
The 4 types of business decision
Strategy vs. business policy
Strategic frameworks explainer
Moving to data-driven decision-making
How to succeed in digital transformation
How to speed up goal delivery
How to assess your internal strengths
Going beyond monetary ROI of strategy
How to create OKRs using catchball
How to align layers of plans
10 keys to strategy execution
Making your team care about goals
Using culture hacking to drive strategic goals
Top-down v bottom-up planning
X-matrix strategic planning tool
Strategic planning Excel template
Root cause analysis pack
Hoshin Kanri template set
Hoshin Kanri boxset
What does adaptive strategy mean?
Digitalizing your strategic planning
Learn how i-nexus simplifies strategy execution
Breakthrough results come from a step-change
When seeking breakthrough results, step-changes are necessary – in people, processes, and systems.
Unfortunately, the disconnect between boardroom strategy and the ‘nuts and bolts’ activities of project management teams within an organization can be a critical weakness in strategy execution.
Organizations need tools that cascade vision, strategy, and goals throughout the business to ensure alignment and buy-in.
Traditionally, execution has been managed using standalone tools, including Excel, Project, PowerPoint, OneDrive, and SharePoint, and project management tools such as Trello and BaseCamp, and business analytics modules such as PowerBI.
These tools can be effective when looking after small, local transformation projects; however, when applied to organization-wide strategy execution, they can quickly become unmanageable, inefficient, and ineffective.
Strategy execution software digitalizes your formulation, deployment, and execution, making it easier to manage each element central to your success, all from one location.
Why you need strategy execution software
- Digitalized x-matrix and balanced scorecard
- Catchball goal-setting
- Eliminating your execution gap
- Visibility and transparency of delivery
- Cascading strategic goals
- Overcoming cultural barriers
- One plan, one direction
- Responding to challenges with agility
Tools you’ll need from strategy execution software
- Planning cycles
- Catchball goal setting
- Strategic portfolio and project management
- Workflow management
- Idea management
- Template and methodology management
- Learning and development management
- Root cause analysis
- Operational and strategic scorecards
- Automated reporting and KPI bowling charts
- Impact and benefits analysis
The benefits of using strategy execution software
Real-time visibility into the progress of strategic initiatives promotes a counterbalance to the pressure of day-to-day operations.
Focus enables organizations to achieve more while doing less, and strategy execution software gives us the tools to achieve this.
Strategy software enables management to assign ownership and accountability to individual resources, tying them into execution.
Test and review assumptions and direction, and course-correct by using one platform to close the loop between action, performance, feedback, and correction.
Plan, execute and track your strategic objectives, initiatives, projects, and daily activity in one system, institutionalizing knowledge from experiences.
Remain agile in your environment with planning states, using existing data and predictive analytics to feed an adaptive strategy.
Discover the better way to achieve your goals
Download a copy of the key to strategy execution eBook, watch i-nexus in action with our on-demand webinar, or book your demo of i-nexus today