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Strategy Implementation and Realisation

Despite the experience of many organisations, it is possible to turn strategies and plans into individual actions, necessary to produce a great business performance. 

But it's not easy. Many companies repeatedly fail to truly motivate their people to work with enthusiasm, all together, towards the corporate aims. 

Most companies and organisations know their businesses, and the strategies required for success. However, many corporations - especially large ones - struggle to translate the theory into action plans that will enable the strategy to be successfully implemented and sustained. Here are some leading edge methods for effective strategic corporate implementation. 

These advanced principles of strategy realisation are provided by the Farsight Leadership organisation, and this contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

Most companies have strategies, but far fewer achieve them. Various studies support this view, for example:

A Fortune Magazine study suggested that 70% of 10 CEOs who fail do so not because of bad strategy, but because of bad execution. (Source: Why CEOs Fail - R Charan & G Colvin, Fortune Magazine, 21 Jun 1999.)

In another study of 200 companies in the Times 1000, 80% of directors said they had the right strategies but only 14% thought they were implementing them well, no doubt linked to the finding that despite 97% of directors having a 'strategic vision', only 33% reported achieving 'significant strategic success'. (Source: Why do only one third of UK companies achieve strategic success? - I Cobbold & G Lawrie, 2GC Ltd., May 2001.)

The message clear - effective strategy realisation is key for achieving strategic success.

Essential Elements

  1. motivational leadership - concentrates on achieving sustained performance through personal growth, values-based leadership and planning that recognises human dynamics
  2. turning strategy into action - entails a phased approach, linking identified performance factors with strategic initiatives and projects designed to develop and optimise departmental and individual activities
  3. performance management - involving the construction of organisational processes and capabilities necessary to achieve performance through people delivering results

1) Motivational Leadership

Real leadership is required to compete effectively and deliver growth. 

People look to leaders to bring meaning, to make sense of the seemingly unquenchable demand for results and the need for individuals to find purpose and value. 

Leadership is the common thread which runs through the entire process of translating strategy into results and is the key to engaging the hearts and minds of your people. 

Whether you are distilling strategy to achieve clarity of intent, engaging your people to drive the strategy into action process or performance managing the resulting actions, effective leadership will make the difference.

2) Strategy into Action

'Strategy into Action' planning is a phased approach charting a course through performance factors, linking strategic thrusts to project, departmental and individual activity. The ultimate goal is to enable organisations to effectively translate strategic intent all the way through to results in a clear and powerful process.

The real need is to creatively and systematically unfold the strategy, bring it to life by creating integrated action plans across an organisation that ensure all functions and divisions are aligned behind it.

There are three distinct phases, identified and demonstrated by the questions listed:

Distil business strategy to achieve clarity of intent

  • What is the intent behind the strategy?
  • What does it mean for each operational unit within the organisation?

Developing the strategic thrusts and broad based action plans

  • What are the few important themes that need to be worked on to deliver the intent?
  • What are the sub-themes and projects?
  • What will success look like and how will it be measured?

Cascading out detailed work plans

  • How will the projects be led and resourced?
  • Who will be responsible for each task?
  • Are individual work plans aligned?
  • What is the review process?

By following this process you and your team - directors, managers, and team members - can map how to deliver your vision; your strategic plan.

Involving the right people is is essential to making the right decisions on priorities, and to creating action plans that are clear and aligned.

The objective is for everyone in the organisation to understand the strategy and specifically how what they are doing will contribute to overall delivery.

3) Performance Management

Too often great plans stay as 'plans'. Typically, the energy and enthusiasm generated during the planning process quickly ebbs away, swamped by the weight of day to day operational issues.

The organisation and its people gravitate to fire-fighting and reactive task scheduling, instead of planning proactively to deliver the new strategic plan.

To make the strategy 'live' everyone in the organisation needs to be engaged to take action, which means:

  • Communicating the strategic intent, thrusts and action plans
  • Using rigorous project management principles to deliver the change agenda
  • Setting individual targets and work plans aligned to the strategic priorities
  • Consistently measuring progress, assessing and giving feedback about performance

Performance management is a key factor in getting the whole organisation aligned and mobilised to reach higher and work collaboratively together to deliver results. 

Increasingly, performance management is enabled using IT systems. FarsightPlus® is and example of an excellent new performance management IT system, which has a pivotal influence on the success of strategy realisation.

The characteristics of an effective performance management system, such as FarsightPlus® are:

  • it must communicate strategy
  • it must measure performance in real time, and
  • it must offer an integrated project management capability, and
  • it must acknowledge and enable emotional contracting with all staff, which is so vital for linking individual commitment and activity to the attainment of organisational plans

This emotional contracting element is commonly overlooked by organisations, and then they wonder why the people have 'failed' to do what the organisation expected and asked them to do.

Emotional contracting (also referred to as 'the psychological contract') is the crucial and powerful link between the organisational intent, and the motivations, values and aspirations of the people.

A good IT-based performance management system must enable effective processes and organisational capabilities to be put in place to create the transparency and accountability needed to drive performance on a sustained basis.

How Effective Is Your Strategy Realisation?

There are simple ways to judge whether your strategy realisation process is working:

Obviously look for business results and progress on the delivery of targets and KPI's (Key Performance Indicators).

You need also to look for signs that your people have really got the corporate message and have taken it to heart.

A well known story illustrates the point:

A group of US Senators were visiting NASA at the time when funding was under threat. One Senator asked a man cleaning the floor "So what are you doing here?" The man answered, "I'm here putting a man on the Moon!"

How closely do your people identify and associate their own roles with your organisational purpose?

Do your people really know what your corporate aims are, and if so do they see and agree with how they fit into the scheme?

Sadly in many organisations the vast majority of staff do not understand the corporate aims, let alone see themselves as an integral part of the effort.

Strategy realisation will not happen without the people being an enthusiastic part of the effort. All to easy to say; another thing entirely to make happen.

The 'Man on the Moon' statement is a real benchmark of the process quality for turning any strategy into action - whether for a team, a department or a corporation.

Every single person must know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and above all, must be fully committed to doing what they are doing.

If your methods enable every single person to know what they are doing, and why, and to be emotionally committed to it, then the process of turning strategy into action is probably working.

Ask yourself some of these questions and you will begin to see how to make your own strategies happen.

These strategic realisation principles are contributed by Farsight Leadership, which is gratefully acknowledged.

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© Farsight Leadership Ltd main content 2004, Alan Chapman edit, code and design 2004-2013.