The best laid Strategy falls short without proper execution

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The fourth quarter is the season for Strategy Planning. Actually, a few companies started their StratPlanning last October.

The most successful companies have an annual Strategy Planning session. They do not leave their success to chance. They will not leave their success to ad hoc decision making. Success is intentional and not circumstantial.

There are countless ways to run a strategic planning session. If not properly checked, the approach of a company takes, can get very complicated. The more complex the business model, the more complicated the strategy.

In my years as a former head of strategy for a large commercial Saudi Bank and currently a management consultant for medium and big companies, I have seen strategies that succeed and some that fail. This quarter alone, we facilitated the Strategy Planning Sessions of over four major companies and counting.

Let us share with you what sets the successful strategies planning apart from the rest.

1. Strategic Workshops must be simple and practical. The steps must be simple and clear. No complicated graphs that have no real meaning. No powerpoint slides that have paragraphs upon paragraphs on data. Simple simply works.

2. Strategic Workshops must paint a clear vision of what the company wants to achieve, when is the target and how will success be measured.

3. Strategic Workshops must transparently raise business issues and risks. If we cannot acknowledge our challenges then we are bound to be held back by them from succeeding. If we have challenges with Department heads working together for the good of the company then how can we expect success? If we have terrible customer service then how can we expect to succeed?

4. Strategic Workshops identifies business opportunities. We cannot grow our business if we simply do the same thing over and over again. We need to be innovative with our offerings in relation to the business opportunities out in the market.

5. Strategic Workshops are collaborative. Crafting the strategy must not be left to a few individuals. Successful strategies are a result of management team effort.

6. Strategic Workshops must come up with actions. Given that we understand where we want to be, we need to plan a path to achieving the company objectives. We need to assign accountabilities. Who will deliver what initiative? What is his/her target? It has to be a single person accountable and not a department. Holding a single accountable produces more chances of success.

The best laid strategy can fall short. Yes, it will be useless unless properly executed. We have seen solid strategies thrown out the window when the company went into ‘business as usual’ mode. Their strategic plans were reviewed years later.

We have a huge conglomerate client who’s group CEO was frustrated with their ability to execute. She said that important initiatives have a tendency to quiet down when she was not asking about them. The same initiatives would come back to life only after she inquires about their status. A case in point was an initiative that was taking 10 years of on and off progress. This important initiative was suppose to improve their collection process.

Executing Initiatives does not need to be complicated as well. It will boil down into a few basic things.

1. People assigned the responsibility of executing a project or initiative must be trained. Some managers we worked with had a tendency to assign important change initiatives to key personnel without providing them the proper training. These are subject matter experts in their own rights. However, successfully managing a project was new to them. They would accept the challenge and fail. Why? Because they did not know what to do. A successful high-end retail company in the Philippines asked us to train their CEO & Senior Executives on the art of execution. At the end of the workshop he realized that they were also falling in the same trap. They were assigning projects to their management team and not providing them the necessary skills. When the managers (project managers) fail, they get blamed. Due to this revelation, the French CEO tasked his HR Director to have all 240 managers trained in Effectively Executing their projects.

2. Successful execution will require time from the senior executives. This usually boils down to around one and a half hours a month. This is valuable time given to projects that need guidance and direction. When we asked the same Group CEO mentioned above if she could spend one hour every three weeks for a Steering Committee meeting, she made sure to free up her time for it. She sat in these project status reviews (Steercom) while the project managers provide their status report one by one. For the projects that were falling behind, they got the chance to explain the reason for being behind and request for direction or resource as needed. In the first two months there were 10 key projects being executed and reviewed. At the end of the second month, 2 projects were already completed.

Strategic Planning need not be rocket science. They are not complicated activities. However, they are valuable to the success of any company regardless of size.

Try the tips mentioned with your Stratplanning and execution sessions. They will work wonders for your company.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.