The success of a plan is not in the planning but in the execution. It is estimated that over 60% of strategies fail because they are not implemented. When asked about challenges, managers responded that their biggest concern is “It’s the successful implementation of a strategic plan” or “It’s getting your strategy done.”
With the number of management executives who are trained on building strategy plans and attend executive programs on various strategies, the one thing that needs to be emphasized is the ‘act of getting things done’ as outlined in the book ‘Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done’ by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.
According to Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, the heart of any Strategy Execution lies in 3 core processes: Strategy, People and Operations.
The process of laying out the strategy is a significant factor, but not the only crucial factor. However, it defines all the other factors and how they can be achieved. As laid out in the paper, the central conclusion of research indicates the importance of procedural justice. All levels of the organization have different perceptions of strategy and interests in the formulation process. Unifying them is the task of the management function. Thus, unifying strategy must be consistent and accommodative.
Organizations are continuously thinking of adapting to times. Having a strongly thought out Strategy supported by an organizational structure is half the process in successful implementation. Further, different strategies require different organizational structures that can allow action items to flow down smoothly across levels. For example, executing a strategy to permeate leadership requires having a structure that allows more decentralisation of decision making activities. As pointed out by Olson, Slater and Hult (2005) four different combinations of structure/behaviour types of: management dominant, customer-centric innovators, customer-centric cost controllers and middle ground have to be matched with behaviours that best serve to facilitate the process of implementing a specific strategy.
Organizations are made up of people. People in an organization take up responsibilities and become responsible for certain activities. According to the paper, enrolment of the top, middle and lower level management is essential for the purpose of rolling out a strategy. However, organizational structures are dynamically changing to become more flat so that they can be quicker and more responsive. While the hierarchical structures worked in the 20th century. In the 21st century organizations, people at various levels are required to take ownership of functions that work directly with the strategy as well.
Further, the most important part of the execution with relation to the executors will be the selection of the team of executors and arriving at how they need to be motivated to ensure that they work proactively for the success of the strategy.
While the strategy and team can be put in place in an organization, what makes the glue is establishing the right channel and mode of communication. Once the strategic plan is in motion, the organization needs to be brought into a single binding communication philosophy which ensures that right things are escalated as and when they become critical and avoiding failures due to inaction/ indecision. Further, organizations need to also be aware the importance in learning from one another to avoid future failures at the granular level. As put very beautifully by Alexander (1985), the content of such communications includes clearly explaining what new responsibilities, tasks, and duties need to be performed by the affected employees. It also includes the why behind changed job activities, and more fundamentally the reasons why the new strategic decision was made in the first place.
Getting the buy-in from the organization and all levels is extremely important to ensure that the strategy is played out as envisioned. This can only happen when the organization feels that they are in on the decision making consensus. People care only about leadership that they have willingly provided, be it on strategies or on the leader itself. Further, a lack of consensus can lead to creation of obstacles in the implementation of a strategy.
As Floyd and Wooldridge argue, strong consensus exists when managers have both, a common understanding of, and a common commitment to their strategy.
No amount of consensus can lead to execution unless supported by commitment. As pointed out in the paper, strategy implementation efforts may fail if the strategy does not enjoy support and commitment by the majority of employees and middle management. This will hold true irrespective of whether or not consensus was achieved at each and every level of the planning. Commitment means that degree or extent to which each owner feels associated in order to support it without an immediate benefit accruing to him/ her. In flatter organizations, authority has no place. It’s all about accountability and ownership. Hence, commitment needs to be existent and permeating across the organization to ensure that the plan gets implemented.
The relationship between corporate business units and inter-functional processes defines the functional competencies, allocation of resources, decision-making participation and influence, inter-functional conflict and coordination. As pointed out by Slater & Olson (2001), the relationships between different strategy levels also reflect the effect of relationships among different cross-organizational levels on strategy implementation (Slater & Olson, 2001). There is a significant trust required between functions in order to understand the long term implications of a strategy. If any lose sight of the end goals or get disheartened, the implementation may fail completely.
The planners and executors both need to be a part of the implementation. The planners need to facilitate an environment that is conducive for the smooth implementation. Nutt (1986) identified four types of implementation tactics used by managers in making planned changes: intervention, participation, persuasion, and edict. In order for implementation to work, there must be sufficient direct and indirect motivational methods that need to be used as well as a certain sense of urgency to facilitate the change in thinking and direction of efforts.
While strategy is being implemented, the organization needs to have a strong enough review function that ensures that progress is monitored and managed. In the absence of review, there is absence of control over the manner in which the organization is carrying on implementation. Further, a strategy without accountability cannot be successful and monitoring systems are the only way to ensure accountability is taken seriously. In the absence of proper administrative systems, you cannot have cohesive and sustained implementation.