In reality, most organisations face the challenge of a strategy implementation disconnect. In broad terms, implementing strategy is about translating broad ideas into concrete action for progress through strategic plan. Implementing is as important as developing the strategy itself.
In an academic research carried out in 2010, it is found that while 80% of firms have the right strategies, only 14% have managed to implement them well. This is an extremely low success rate for implementation.
Therefore, implementation is considered the most difficult stage of the strategy process. It requires alignment, commitment, hard work and focus from the entire organisation. Implementation process needs to be clearly defined for the implementation to be successful.
1) Ensure that the strategy has clarity and a narrow focus
A good strategy limits the amount of directions a company runs into. It needs to be clear. Clarity ensures that employees know what is needed to achieve with the implementation of strategy. Clarity also means strategies need to be believable.
Otherwise, there will be chaos, risk, complexity and no time to learn. Thus, strategy implementation will not make it through the finishing line.
It is also important to have prioritisation to prevent resources from spreading too thin. Employees should understand the priorities sufficiently to plan and achieve the prerequisites for success in time. Consequently, they should spend majority of their time on organization’s priorities.
Employees should focus on the crucial to identify which problem needs to be solved first. It also sorts out the less urgent and important tasks which they should either delegate or not do at all.
In other words, a good strategy guides the undertakings of the organization, provides rationales for resource allocation, and sharpens decision-making at every level. A bad strategy creates ambiguity and opens the door to politics, bad choices, and lower performance.
2) Measure what needs to be achieved by the strategy
“What gets measured, gets done.” Measuring is a hallmark of successful companies.
Performance is measured through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs need to tie to strategic objectives. It also needs to be simple to prevent overload on staff to track KPIs.
Setting the right KPIs help you measure your progress towards your long term goals and business strategy. The rule of thumb is to choose no more than four per department.
You also need to train your team on how to track the metrics. Without training, the data may not be updated or monitored correctly, which could in turn jeopardize the implementation of strategy. It is best to also have a shared performance dashboard.
The right project managers are also needed to own the project so that there will be a responsible person leading the implementation and achievement of KPIs. Clear accountability must be established for specific actions during implementation.
However, strategy should not be a rigid, box-checking exercise. There should be adaptation and learning when necessary. Ownership and commitment on strategic projects is important to ensure the right implementation.
3) Have the right culture to achieve strategy goals
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" - Peter Drucker
Many leaders underestimate the power of culture to achieve strategic goals. The feeling of unity is one reason why company culture is important. It is even more important when a company operates in many different countries, where there is a large background diversity.
In a strong culture, employees feel valued and are more motivated to achieve goals. Strong company cultures also give employees opportunities to grow. Offering promotions, career development programs or extra training can keep employees motivated – which in turn, improves performance.
In companies with good communication practices, employees know their opinions and ideas are welcomed. Transparent and honest communication is the quality of an effective organisation.
Rather than an “us vs. them” approach, collaborative companies promote autonomy, decision-making, and teamwork. It supports feedback to refine the strategy.
In summary, once employees are hired, trained and oriented to the workplace, they either feel supported and energized or undervalued and frustrated. When employees feel valued, they are more involved, enthusiastic and engaged. Implementing strategy is then easier. Culture and strategy go hand-in-hand.
Implementation matters. Without implementation, the entire strategy process will be unsuccessful. Having a good implementation means there will be more value of the strategy realised and retained in the organisation. At the end of the day, strategy is about the actions you take. A well-formulated strategy is meaningless if not implemented well.
Companies need to be clear on what needs to be implemented. It also needs to track and identify metrics for increased accountability and follow-up. Communication also needs to be strong. Company culture needs to be able to facilitate the human aspect of implementing strategy.
What is your greatest challenge when implementing strategy? Share with us by leaving us a comment. If you require more information on developing your corporate or business strategy, feel free to contact us. Subscribe to our newsletter for regular feeds.
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Good & Co, How does company culture impact employees?, https://good.co/blog/company-culture-impact-employees/, published 2 February 2015
BDC, How to measure the success of your strategic plan?, https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/business-strategy-planning/define-strategy/pages/how-to-measure-success-strategic-plan.aspx
Eisenhower, Eisenhower Matrix, https://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/