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Most Companies Fail to Effectively Execute Strategy. How Can You Succeed?

Vision is essential for any leader. Without the ability to execute, however, a leader's aims fall flat. Here are some tips for masterful execution.

Strategies rarely pan out exactly as anticipated. It’s a requirement of leadership to adapt as dynamics in business, and the world, shift. Nonetheless, a one- to five-year strategic plan is vital in setting the overall direction for an organization and can help C-level leaders steer day to day, making course corrections as circumstances and results dictate.

Many executive teams excel in defining a long-term vision, only to falter when translating their carefully constructed plans into real-world action. In fact, an estimated 67% of strategies fail due to poor execution

What does it take to succeed? Read on…

Before all else, communication, communication, communication

The first stage of execution is to communicate the strategy to every member of the team. It would be unreasonable to expect individuals to meet performance benchmarks without a clear idea of what the goals are and how they can reach them. Good communication, therefore, must permeate every level of the organization.

Adeptly handled, this communication will impart a natural sense of direction to guide employees’ and partners’ efforts, rather than a rigid plan dictating everything they do. Teams’ ability to contribute their talents and creativity will only improve execution.

Although executives and managers may be sharing a vision crafted in the C-suite, it’s vital that communications be two-way instead of top-down. Leaders should take employees’ input into consideration and create time and space for people to ask questions.

Collecting feedback in this manner will not only identify blind spots in a strategic plan, the conversations are a great way to gauge how well people understand the objectives they’re being asked to pursue.

6 more tactics for effective execution

Once a strategy has been thoroughly communicated and feedback has been incorporated, it’s time to get to work. After all, execution is a plan in action. Leaders can undertake the execution stage with these tips in mind:

1. Capture hearts and minds

A part of every leader’s job is to inspire others. When executing on strategy, executives must garner strong buy-in from across the organization. People must be convinced that the plan they are asked to implement is logical and, importantly, meaningful so that they are motivated to follow through.

To be fully engaged, individuals must also understand how their efforts will impact the organization (and beyond!) and how great work will be recognized and rewarded.

2. Align resources and people

Logistics are important to quality execution as well. Leaders must evaluate their plans and identify what tools and talents are needed to drive results.

Sadly, many companies pay for resources without ensuring those who need them can access and effectively use them. At the same time, other teams and individual contributors frequently remain under-resourced.

An audit of organizational assets can help realign resources with objectives. From there, teams should be made aware of what resources are available to them and steps must be taken to ensure people feel competent with them. Throughout this process, leaders need to be open to feedback about the tools available, as well as requests for additional needs for resources, training, or support.

3. Carry out decisions and plans

Once merely an online bookseller, Amazon rapidly grew into the world’s largest online retailer. Critical to the company’s rise – a bias for action.

Even when chasing more modest objectives, leaders can follow Amazon’s lead by never letting perfect be the enemy of good. Execution often comes down to a willingness to start despite limited information or fear of failure.

Effective leaders recognize that most decisions can be corrected and that inaction is typically a greater risk than action. When approaching their teams, leaders needn’t project absolute certainty in a plan – it’s okay to admit that strategies will evolve – but they should work to inspire confidence that a plan is well conceived, adaptable, and achievable.

4. Measure and monitor

There’s a reason hypothesis testing is taught in schools. Students benefit when they can propose an answer to a question and then use evidence to determine if their thinking was correct.

In business, a strategic plan is much like a hypothesis for what will help the organization excel. Measuring results enables leaders to evaluate the quality of their planning and assess the choices they made along the way.

That means defining and continually monitoring key performance indicators.

5. Drive a culture of accountability

Broadly, accountability is a disposition where people take ownership of their decisions, and it helps to build trust with others. When done well, accountability involves measuring or assessing outcomes, without assigning shame or blame should hard effort not necessarily drive the expected result.

When it comes to execution, a culture of accountability will empower teams to analyze their goal achievement and to stay curious about their hypothesis, asking again and again how well the plan is unfolding and what changes are needed.

To get an accurate picture and effectively fine-tune execution, leaders must be open to feedback and input. We’ll say it again – communication, communication, communication.

6. Strive for operational excellence

The more work being done, the more harm even small operational inefficiencies can do. Leaders should be on the lookout as such inefficiencies surface and address them over time.

Businesses built for scale will always struggle to maintain operational excellence but the fight for continuous improvement must go on.

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Execution is iterative, not linear. At first, this notion can prove frustrating for an ambitious manager or C-level executive, but effective leaders will find the idea is ultimately freeing.

Recognizing that there will inevitably be adjustments to any plan, leaders can let go of the fear that their strategies are imperfect, because all strategies are! Rather than hold back awaiting new information, greater certainty, or better ideas that many never emerge, leaders can follow the famous Nike slogan and “just do it.”

Looking for insightful feedback as you translate your strategies into action? A Vistage peer advisory group shares wisdom and experience among a small cadre of talented executives and offers a great sounding board when shaping and executing a strategic plan. Simply message Imprint Talent Readiness for more information.

Find the source for the failed execution statistic here.


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