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Five strategy execution myths exposed Rebecca Homkes examines the myths and realities of effective strategy execution.
Five strategy execution myths exposed The planning and doing chasm What is the most difficult challenge your company faces in executing its strategy? It is surprising how little time and attention is devoted to execution, despite it being an enduring challenge in so many organisations. A huge gap persists between the time we devote to developing strategy and the time we devote to executing it. 2
Myth MYTH 1 Execution is all about alignment There is a commonly held myth that the challenge of execution is about aligning activities and objectives up and down the company hierarchy, through aspects like KPIs and nested objectives. 3
Reality REALITY 1 Execution is not all about alignment Within complex organisations, coordination of activities across multiple functions, departments and units is critical to get things done. Part of the issue? We don’t have enough tools when considering how to translate commitments made across the organisation into deliverable results for customers. 4
Myth MYTH 2 Execution is just implementing a plan Facing this coordination challenge, many organisations try to script coordination by describing in painful detail who needs to do what and by when through detailed implementation plans. When executing strategy in the real world, however, things change all the time. 5
Reality REALITY 2 Execution is more than implementing a plan Adjusting to local circumstances as markets shift is the very essence of executing strategy in volatile markets. Effective execution depends on leaders ensuring that the strategy, intent, and non-negotiables of executing are clear. To execute, managers throughout the organisation should know what lies within the bounds of strategy and what lies outside of it. 6
Myth MYTH 3 Execution is one size fits all Strategy execution is about simultaneously doing three things at once – aligning activities and resources with strategy, coordinating across functions, business units and geographies, and adapting to local circumstances and changes. But organisations will struggle to find the perfect balance across these three, often competing, dimensions. 7
Reality REALITY 3 Execution is not one size fits all While balance is difficult, it is also unnecessary. It is key that companies find their fit, or their unique execution approach, and then adapt their approach to this. 8
Myth MYTH 4 Strategy and execution are distinct from each other When organisations fail to achieve their desired results, executives often write off the failure to a great strategy brought down by poor execution. But failure to execute is always partly, if not wholly, due to strategy itself. 9
Reality REALITY 4 Strategy and execution are interdependent Thinking we can separate strategy from execution is one of the biggest myths of execution. Strategy is about choices – about how a company creates and sustains economic value. A failure to execute often starts with failure to make those tough choices, and even more so failing to communicate them. 10
Myth MYTH 5 You need the CEO if you want to execute Too often, leaders and managers express the desire for their CEO to get more involved, to really understand what the issues are. But it is these managers – distributed leaders – who are the real heroes of execution. 11
Reality REALITY 5 You need empowered leaders if you want to execute In complex organisations, the leaders closest to strategic choices are in the best place to make tough calls. Execution lives and dies with this group, defined as the set of managers and leaders distributed throughout the organisation who are critical to executing strategy. 12
Rebecca Homkes, Teaching Fellow at London Business School. The full blog post was published on London Business School Review online. Visit the website: www.london.edu/lbsr