Strategic Execution success drivers  

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 success drivers

A good strategic execution needs management alignment at a detailed level, tools to generate dashboards and scorecards, discipline, change management of your execution process and a clear communication of strategy to all levels within an organization.

Here are the key success drivers of a good strategic execution

Management Alignment during strategic planning on lower level of details

During strategic planning phase, one may get management alignment at a high level. However, the main barrier to successful EM is alignment at the detailed level. As the strategy blueprint and business plan is chalked out, heads of business keep on checking with their teams before they make any commitments. However, you can do only as much, and many a times people say yes before understanding the implications at the ground level. The issue is that if one does a detailed impact analysis on every aspect, it may take a long time to freeze your plans. Many a times, a head of business has to take a leap of faith.

For example- Head of Sales wants to launch 50 new offices next year and he needs a commitment from operations and IT, that they will support this launch. CIO and Head of Ops go back to their teams. If the teams come back with a 'NO', the issue goes back to the board room. This follows with mulTiple scenarios getting discussed and negotiated. A time comes, when the CIO and Head of Ops take a leap of faith and commit themselves. One reason is that they are paid to take greater risks compared to their teams which are more of 'play safe'. However, when the time comes for execution, and the teams are not able to deliver, we get into scenario of people may start protecting their own functions.

Therefore, it is must for the alignment to be at a more detailed level and appropriate impact analysis being done. However, it is not as simple- The issues are of (a) 'play safe' nature of the teams which are going to deliver and (b) time it takes to do a detailed analysis.

TIP- the solution to the above issue is rather simple. Each of the functional heads needs to have a good ear to the market on how their competition OR peers are delivering and what are the new tricks to deliver. For example, even before head of sales comes and asks for estimates on opening 50 new offices, a smart CIO would have prepared himself for this scenario. We always encourage a band-width to be spent on constantly keep an ear on what is happening in the market, and preparing for various business scenarios.

TIP- Do not compromise timeline for sake of detail. No detail is good enough to reach an alignment. One can use various methods to be more efficient in analysis, before one commits to a goal, but a point will come, when you have to take an 'informed judgment'. If you do not put a timeline pressure, managers will take forever before they commit themselves.

TIP- Build a risk taking culture. Organizations should encourage people who take risk. 'Under-commit and over-deliver' culture sometimes holds-back people from committing to more aggressive goals. If we create a culture, where we penalize people who under-deliver to aggressive goals, it may lead to risk-averse organization. It goes unsaid that one needs to have a balance between the aggressive commitments and organization's capability to deliver.

A clear and contextual communication of strategy and business plan

Fundamental to a successful EM is that an individual, function OR team knows the answer to the following questions:

  • What is the strategy blue-print and how is it linked to my role?
  • What it the business plan and how is it linked to my role and goals?
  • What are my goals and what will be considered as being successful in meeting that goal?
  • What I need to do different, what I need to stop doing and what I need to start doing to meet my goals?
  • What will be the measurement and performance assessment process?
  • What will be the rewards and incentives, if I meet OR exceed the expectations?

With above clarity, one sets-up the context for driving execution. Answers to the above questions are the reference to everything else that follows, like designing of scorecards and dashboards, performance review sessions etc..

An enterprise level role for 'execution management'

A business typically has strategic planning group, which drives the development of strategy blueprint and business plan. However, there is not dedicated role who owns the execution management process. This roles does not have to own the performance results (just like a strategic planning group is a facilitator and not the owner of strategy), but will own the adherence to the execution management process and its effectiveness. It will not be a policing function, but a facilitator and conscience-keeper function.

TIP- One option can be to make strategic planning group also to be responsible for execution management process. Provide appropriate accountability and empowerment.

Tools for designing, preparing and generating scorecards and dashboard

An organization needs tools to generate scorecards and dashboards, so that:

  • They are timely-

For example- The monthly performance scorecard should be produced with in 3-4 working days. A longer time will lead to a disinterest among the people. A delayed scorecard, does not tell you something new, as people know it through other channels. Secondly, by the time one completes the performance review, half the month has passed and it is too late to take any action to improve the lot for the next month. This delayed generation of scorecard, leads to a parallel informal process, whereby people review the performance and plan the actions in coffee breaks and ad-hoc meetings.

Another example is related to the dashboard. A dashboard is expected to be close to the actual timing of operations. A daily dashboard needs to be available at the end of the day OR beginning of the next day. Some businesses and processes have a real time dashboards displayed across the walls of their offices. Contact Centers, Trading Centers, Network and infrastructure management centers are some examples of the real-time dashboards.

  • Accurate
An automated process of generating dashboards and scorecards can achieve accuracy by taking data from BI environments OR from other reliable data sources. Lesser manual intervention provides greater probability of accuracy. An automated tool should also be able to throw any discrepancy of data across different scorecards.
  • Needing least manual effort-

A tool should be able to save on the manual effort needed to generate a dashboard OR a scorecard. However, some level of manual intervention is needed (more so in case of a scorecard), to produce the final product. Please refer our Tip scorecards need manual finish. More flexible a tool is to meet the expectations of  organization-specific needs, better it is.

Facilitation of performance review sessions

Performance Review session has many traps of getting these sessions prolonged. A good facilitation will ensure that people don't get into:

  • Detailed solutioning.
  • Detailed explanations.
  • Co-sharing the accountabilities.
  • Mixing priorities and loose focus on areas which matter most.
  • Starting an important, but a totally new subject etc.


Nothing like following your EM processes doggedly day after day and month after month. Just like any other process, it will take many months before it gets institutionalized in the psych of an organization.

Change management

Ability to change your EM process so that it fits with the culture and management style of an organization is the key. There can be many versions of an EM, while all of them carrying the imperatives of a good EM

Every-one being part of the execution management

Unlike Strategic planning, every individual in an organization needs to understand and follow an EM.