Strategic Execution Issues  

Execution Management - An Overview

This is the starting chapter of the entire encyclopedia on 'Execution- Making it Happen'. It sets the context of what Execution is and what it is not. It shares the paradox of why Execution is not a discipline, inspite of it being most critical to the success of an organization.

Strategic Execution Issues

Strategic Execution Management is an ignored subject, and most of the organization either lose steam or focus, by the time they have to start implementing the lofty documents like Strategy Blue-print and Strategic Business Plan. Execution is generally not considered 'Strategic'.

By now you have the Strategy Blueprint, leading to Strategic Business Plan. Is there still something left? It would be suffice to say that we have done 20% of the job. All what we have got is product of thinking & information. Now we enter the realm of action and fulfilling our blue-print/plans/goal-sheets.

This part is typically considered as given by most enterprises. That's why you have 'Strategic Planning' roles, but generally no enterprise level 'Strategic Execution management' roles. That is why most of the consulting organizations are focused on building your strategy and business plan and not on how to bring them into reality.

It is a bit paradoxical that something, which is core to your success, is least looked-at by the thinking hats. It's a myth that 'strategic execution management' is low-brainer compared to 'Strategic Planning'. Companies are failing less due to flawed strategy, but more due to flawed execution. We at are a strong believer that if our execution management process is good, even flaws in strategy will be thrown-up early and strategy will be fine-tuned to the right direction. If your execution machinery is good, you can keep on throwing new strategies on it.

These are few reasons why strategic execution gets ignored:

That is what managers are paid for:

After strategy is done, it is left for the management team and the teams under them to deliver. An organization expects the managers at all levels to deliver to the established goals and priorities. Given this mind-set, an organization does not feel the need of having an orchestrated EM process OR principles.

Alignment Validation:

It is easy to get an alignment on a piece of paper, but the real validation of the alignment is execution. Sometimes people agree in boardrooms, but the same agreement gets diluted once one starts operating in one's own world and unknowingly reverses the order of hats one has to wear.

People loose the steam:

Sometimes organizations spend so much time and energy on strategic planning and giving it such a hype that people loose acceleration at the time of action. This is typically stated as 'STOS' (Strategy on top of shelf), which means that the forgotten strategy is dusted off only in the subsequent business plan cycle.

TIP- The strategic planning process should not be too long. Guideline is that 2-3 months is the maximum time an organization needs to do strategic planning. We have seen many organizations taking 5-6 months to complete this exercise.

TIP- Much of initial research work, information gathering etc. can be done in the back-ground. Don't include too many people for too long.

Unfair demarcation between strategists and doers:

Some cultural distortions lead to a feeling that it is undignified and 'un-strategic' to execute the strategy. Nothing could be far from truth, as strategy gets reviewed at every stage of execution. During the dot-com bust few years back, a statement 'ideas and strategies are dime a dozen- its execution, which matters' was quite popular. This can be fixed only by management team by being role models and driving the same down the levels.

Lack of execution management process:

A lack of execution management process, leads to different managers adopting different techniques to manage performance within their domain. This makes the process inefficient and less than effective, which leads to disinterest.

Less consulting and best practices around this subject

Typically we hire consultant to implement a project and to support strategic planning. The execution on the other hand is business and usual. Therefore service providers have not build practices and focus around this area, as there does not seem to be too much of a market.

Even with SEM process existing, people don't want to follow the process

Execution management demands process adherence. Managers and leaders have their own style of management and they don't want to be bound by the rules of an organizational EM process. Some managers may believe in real-time micro management, and some may be 'hands-off' managers. This leads to execution management depending more on an individual manager's orientation instead of an organization's way of working.

TIP- Create your execution management process in a way so that it supplements and not replace the management style of a leader.