The usual disconnect between strategy and execution

Strategies never succeed on software alone. On the contrary, most of the actions involved in implementing a new strategy has to be performed by people. Still, formulating and ensuring deadlines are met might be aided by visual management tools as well as simple, well worked routines that focuses on honest assessment of every employee’s ability to execute tasks.

Having a very versatile group of organisations and businesses in the Boye Network, I am always keen on discovering strategic and procedural measurements that might work universally. This is why I invited Victor Veloso, CEO at ActionPlanner — one of few companies working with businesses to ensure proper execution — to join a few groups meetings last month. We had a chat about some of the problems facing successful business execution and how to solve them with seemingly simple steps.


Ensuring execution — small steps towards a successful strategy

Does this sound familiar:

The strategy is formulated and everyone nods; all in total agreement that this is a great idea, but then nothing happens, and at the next meeting everyone mumbles around the process of actually executing the strategy.

Whose responsibility is it anyway?

The problem is that the strategy hasn’t been broken down into smaller parts. And even if it has, it isn’t clear who owns which parts. Victor underscores the importance of outlining and understanding the road to whatever end goal the strategy is designed to reach:

“Very often people will forget about all those necessary steps that are standing between you and the finish line.”

It’s all about execution

You need to establish part goals on the road to your main goal, and then break down what specific milestones and actions are required to reach those as well as who is going to perform those actions. This will reveal speed bumps that could take the form of anything from a lack of competence to a lack of motivation — usually only if the purpose of the strategy hasn’t been communicated clearly.

Breaking down the strategy into many smaller deliverables also makes ongoing evaluation easier. Having mapped the different areas of responsibilities you can easily address the right people and have weekly follow ups that aren’t very time consuming — this time everyone knows what they should be doing. The meetings can now focus on whether or notemployees are succeeding in executing the necessary actions, and if not, where the problem lies; be it competence, time or some other issue.

Instead of wasting time figuring out what is happening with that strategy everyone was super excited about.

Honesty is a condition for a process like this, but luckily honesty and transparency is something that can be build throughout the initiatives and the organisation — with the aid of software to digitalise the process and enable efficient collaboration across silos and borders.

The secret ingredient for pulling it off

Victor emphasises that the most important human aspect of implementing and keeping a proper execution strategy is honesty and transparency:

If employees are not willing or don’t feel safe reporting honestly on the status on given tasks, then the process falls apart.

He points to this as a place where simple visual aids can do a world of good:

“Simply implementing a colour code on the status on any given initiative depersonalises it and encourages people to share openly. Green for everything is good, yellow for some issues, and red for a complete haltif all employees are green flagging their area of responsibility, then I know something is wrong”.