If you thought it was just your company that sucked at implementing strategy, don’t reach for the glock just yet. McKinsey, the 90 yr old grandad of business consulting sighted that 70% of all strategy execution falls short of implementation goals. Bummer dude.
Strategy (if done right) is awesome, it’s the transfer of strategy into action that is the forehead slap.
So the simple question has to be asked: why does strategy fail us? The answer is not so simple but the speedy version is that humans are involved and we’re horribly flawed creatures, even if our curated instagram account says otherwise. Case closed. Plus who really cares anyway, let’s turn our brains toward 5 things that make strategy execution better;
1. Agile, it’s the yoga of strategy.
If you already have a strategy in place, how flexible is it? Much ‘strategy’ breaks the moment business conditions change or new opportunities arise (which is like every week). If your business strategy is rigid you’ll either stick with it too closely or abandon the moment the environment changes and neither actions are a good idea. Agile strategy should reflect part of the plan as being ‘fixed’ — as in core values, mission & market positioning for example as being non-negotiable, do not break in case of fire. The other part of your business strategy should be like a yogi: flexible. That’s becuase when we have flex in certain parts of our model we allow our businesses to react to environmental changes or fix things that are not working more rapidly. You also feel less guilty about leaning in a few directions and more likely to stay on the overall mish.
2. Make stuff, don’t just talk about it.
Let’s say you are launching a new website and you have a couple radical ideas. Rather than take that asset to market and stick with a dud for 12 months before you make a change, take an agile approach. Build a rapid prototype, put it in front of a handful of customers. Test your ideas withinyour broader strategy and allow yourself the flex (back to point one) to make changes, while staying within your bounds of values and mission.
3. Keep the pedal to the metal
Strategy can take a long time for companies to incubate. The bigger you are, the longer it takes. It doesn’t need to be this way. By mashing thinking & making & doing together you are creating a framework for something very important and that is momentum.
Forward motion is the lithium ion of business.
Getting in a space with your work buddies and stepping through business model insight exercises is worthwhile, but don’t spend too much time here. Talking is good, exercises designed to pull out creative thinking is better and making stuff (also known as design thinking) is worth a fist bump in the corridor. When strategy is being deployed in real time (rather than being constrained to months of talking and no doing) you are showing the team the fruits of the thinking, demonstrating it’s value to the business and if your strategy is right, creating critical mass behind your push toward a bigger mission.
4. Docs are for documenting, not advertising
If all of your creative thinking and best ideas live solely in a word doc, you have a problem. It’s lovely that you’ve captured the strategy sessions and someone took the time to format it nicely and maybe even added a couple of emojis to brighten things up, here’s the issue: you’ll forget about it.