Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Strategy Execution

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July 31st 2018
Lucy Kiruthu

Over the last few years, I have dived deep into the complex world of strategy execution. I have interviewed board members, CEOs and senior executives, surveyed managers and spoken to staff on the subject. I have read the best books and journal articles on execution and keenly followed through the different arguments made by top scholars in the field of strategy execution. In addition, I have been involved or closely observed as organization push through their chosen strategies. I have worked with organisations implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or core banking systems. Others have been in the process of implementing a change of culture, a merger or acquisition, a quality management system, new products and more. It is never easy!

Execution of strategy remains the number one challenge facing most business leaders. These business leaders feel that their organizations need to improve their speed of execution. Unfortunately, there is a lot of buck-passing in strategy execution. On one hand, CEOs think that the managers are not doing enough to get moving ahead. On the other hand, managers believe that the board and CEOs need to do more especially in resource allocation. Middle-level and frontline managers who are often the implementers feel that the main challenge has to do with leadership. These implementers want a leadership that involves them more from the planning stage. Most believe that their involvement from the onset would simplify the execution phase by weathering off resistance. Poor communication throughout the strategy making and execution process is also seen as causing turbulence in the execution waters. Without execution, even the best strategy are as useless as no strategy.

I believe that the planning aspect of any strategy is important; however, it is not enough to come up with a great plan, launch it and fail in its implementation. Once all the choices are thought through, the difficult task starts – that of putting the strategy into action. Execution has been described as the highway to organizational performance. The execution process involves many aspects of the organization. As such, everything that happens in an organization on a daily basis should be a reflection of its chosen strategic direction. Unfortunately, in some business there is a disconnect between strategy and what goes on in the business. In other businesses, an annual ritual to review the strategy adds little value to its execution. Why wait until year-end? Why not review execution progress on a monthly or even weekly basis?

Implementing new strategies, new processes, and new products is a daunting task. In most cases, it involves change. It therefore requires everyone to push together in the same direction. By dividing strategy into small chucks, it becomes easier to execute. A key element of a strategy execution process is a plan of action that shows what will be done, by who, by when, and the resource requirement. By closely following through the actions as a team, making any required adjustments, I believe that organizations can fast track their strategy execution and sail through the life of the organization with less turbulence.

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy