A Pledge for Actual Implementation and Execution of Business Strategy                     

Have you – as you and your leadership team are currently defining your business strategy for 2014 – thought yourself, or heard your peers or subordinates say: “Most of the strategic actions we are agreeing to now, we had already agreed to a year ago (or two, five, eight years), yet nothing had happened then – why should it be different this time?”?

Business strategies – regardless whether aimed at incremental/evolutionary, or radical/disruptive changes to tactics or the business model itself and regardless whether based on minor adjustments in market/customer orientation, Porter’s Three Generic Strategies or on more radical strategic shifts such as according to the Blue Ocean analogy – inevitably fail to deliver their anticipated results, if not implemented and executed upon. 

I would even be so bold and say: If a business does not implement and execute on its strategy on every level of its organization – having gone through the strategy definition exercise then would have been, in essence, an enormous waste of time – time that may have been better spend on day-to-day organizational, operational improvements or – for that matter – time that may have been better spend with your customers.

Certainly, going through the strategy definition process – as so many businesses do during this season in preparation for 2014 – does have a benefit by creating that kind of team building spirit, especially among the business leadership team, that can serve as a re-set and re-focus of the team on the objectives, directions and initiatives that matter to the business in the upcoming months.

However, such potential benefit of a re-ignited team may soon erode, or even reverse itself especially at the organizational base, as your key stakeholders, contributors and all employees – and more often than not, also your customers and constituents – soon realize that those hailed strategic ideas that had been applauded during the strategy definition process are actually not being implemented and executed on (as they probably hadn’t been for the past two, five, eight or more years already as well).

Likewise, I rather frequently hear the comment that “There is strategy (defined at top management level), and then there is day-to-day operations (at the operational level).” As if strategy and operations were completely different matters altogether, such or similar statements in my view are reminiscent of the very fact that business strategy has been defined – somewhere – but has not been and will not be implemented, and thus will not really have any impact on how the business acts (differently) in real terms.

So again, why waste the effort?

If we agree that business strategies in the first place aim at achieving certain financial objectives (or at the ability to optimally serve a certain constituency with limited resources, if the organization is not-for-profit or governmental), by better serving certain markets, customers or constituents than our competition – can this not only be achieved, if our business strategy in actuality converts to really changed day-to-day operations on process and all organization levels?

Or do you want to continue to merely serve lip service to your shareholders, customers, constituents, and not the least – your employees?

Michael Adick | MBA, Managing Director, Articulate Ltd.