The Problem Is The Lack Of Execution

by Jay Deragon on 07/24/2012

Good strategy is no guarantee of good results, especially if you cannot execute the strategy.

In a 2010 Harvard Business Review survey, it was reported that only 37% of business leaders think their companies are “very good” or “excellent” at execution. Leaders pull the wrong levers in their attempts to turn around performance—pressing for better strategies when they actually need better execution, or opting to change direction when they really should focus the organization on execution. The result: wasted energy, lost time, and continued under performance.”

Those who create the plan are usually the ones who fight the plan.  Think about. An organizations executive team spend time learning about strategy, developing their own strategies then planning to execute the chosen strategies. Then they sit around in weekly meeting discussing why they couldn’t execute the strategic priorities that week because of interruptions, lack of time and other pressing demands.

What Are The Barriers To Execution?

In a  survey conducted by Michigan University  titled Leaders Talk About Executing Strategy, Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne writes: As you can see from the graph on the left, the #1 barrier is the company’s past and habits (with 35% of respondents thinking their past and habits will likely derail strategy).

Second in importance are financial factors, with both budget and economic climate being mentioned by 29% of the respondents. Next, you see two variables that are functions of the company’s habits and past – company culture and the way the employees work together.

The primary constraints to executing an organizations strategy can be categorized as:

  1. Leadership: Leaders are those with vision and discipline. Leaderships role is to insure that priorities are in alignment with strategic objectives and subsequently key performance indicators are put in place so management can be accountable for progress.
  2. Culture: The organizations culture plays a major role in execution. Unless employees are involved both in development of the strategy and have ownership of the execution processes their level of strategic engagement is diminished.  A diminished level of engagement means nothing will get done. What management should have done is remove the barriers and excuses for not engaging employees in the strategic process to begin with.
  3. Knowledge: Creating, planning and executing new strategies requires new knowledge. Unless the organization has defined the process of continuous training and education then you can’t expected anyone  to acquire and use new knowledge.  We are in a knowledge economy and in order to excel in the 21st Century acquisition and application of new knowledge is a strategic imperative.

There is one more critical element that insures strategic execution. That is understanding 1,2 and 3 above.  “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Albert Einstein

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