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Bruce Holland

ph+644 570 0727
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fx+644 570 0427
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Bruce.Holland@virtual.co.nz



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Strategic STRATEGY EXECUTION PROCESS

The issue

When it comes to strategy, research shows that 76% fail at the implementation stage, not the conceptual stage. No strategy process is successful until the strategies have been successfully executed. And this is where most fail.


76% of Strategies Fail during Implementation.


The seeds of this failure are often sown immediately after senior managers come back from a strategic workshop. They are excited about their newly agreed vision of the future and clear strategies to achieve it. Often their next step is to try to sell their strategy to the troops, unfortunately the troops seldom buy it. The way to get everyone understanding the strategy and committed to it is to let them sell them selves.

This is explained in a short video.

I used to think of myself as someone who helped senior managers in mostly large organisations determine the strategies required to make them more focused, fast and flexible. Today, I still help during this conceptual stage but I spend more time helping managers implement their strategies because this is where most people fail.

Formulating strategy is difficult. Executing it throughout the organisation - that's even harder. Without effective execution, no business strategy can succeed. Unfortunately, most managers know more about developing strategies than about executing them - and overcoming the difficult political and organisational and obstacles that stand in the way.

When managers start a change process, they believe they understand what will be involved. They are wrong. Once they get into the process, they are astonished at how muddled, painful, protracted, tiresome, complicated and energy-absorbing creating change can be. They wish they'd known more before going into it and had been better prepared, so they could have anticipated messy situations and recognised problems before they they arose, or at least before they escalated into serious trouble. Some wish they had never started at all.

Even the best managers have problems, especially in taking the step from planning to doing. Recently different CEOs, all of whom I would rate as some of the best, have made the following statements to me.

Do any of these statements ring true to you?

  • "We know what we need to do, but we don't seem to have the ability to make it happen."
  • "I don't know whether we can justify another strategic offsite. I know we'll just come up with the same old stuff again. It's application where we need help".
  • "We need to put some rubber on the road".
  • "The 14 inches from the head to the heart is a long long journey".
  • "It's not that people don't want to do it, they just don't know how".

The sad fact is, seventy six percent of change programs fail - see research by Tom Tierney & Sarabjit Singh Baveja. For example, in a recent year $32 billion was spent in the US alone on reengineering programs - and yet Michael Hammer, the most prominent reengineering guru of them all, estimated that fully $20 billion of that $32 billion was wasted! This is depressing news at a time when more and more companies face upheaval. And it's certainly in line with my own findings. Most strategies fail and they usually fail during implementation.

Too often managers underestimate the effort and skill required to actually implement the strategy. It just becomes too hard and the whole thing unravels.

Execution is often poorly handled for the following reasons...


Execution is Difficult

No strategy process is successful until the strategies have been successfully executed.

Often people leave from the strategy workshop with the highest ideals in mind and good intentions, revved up and ready to go. A month or two later when I check nothing has happened. Often the excuses are "too busy" or "new priorities". The real problem is execution.

Clients fail to execute, not because they become disillusioned with the strategy, not because the destination looks any less rosy, but because they become afraid of the journey and there is nothing to alleviate that fear. No one knows what to expect on the journey from today, which is well known and safe, to tomorrow, which is unknown and unsafe. Change is darkest at the entry point and becomes progressively brighter as you emerge towards the other side.

What looks easy during the strategic workshop phase looks very different when you get back into the office and have to start implementing the changes.

  • Reduce staff becomes Fire people
  • Reorganise staff becomes Demote people
  • Invest in the organisation becomes Reduce current profit margins
  • Change procedures becomes Reverse others decisions
  • Create accountability becomes Provide negative feedback
  • Lead by example becomes Change comfortable behaviours
  • Listen to employees becomes Received negative feedback
  • Reverse decisions becomes Admit failure or poor decisions
  • Abandon consensus management becomes Confront peers and Associates
  • Raise prices becomes Alienate customers.

Some pitfall...

My role

I used to think of myself as someone who helped senior managers in mostly large organisations determine the strategies required to make them more focused, fast and flexible. Today, I still help during this conceptual stage but I spend more time helping managers implement their strategies because this is where most people fail. When it comes to strategy, research shows that 76% fail at the implementation stage, not the conceptual stage.

My role is like a coach during the process. All great teams need a coach even world champions like Tiger Woods needs a coach. Change is like playing golf, you can?t see yourself doing it.

I help you start with the belief and follow with the action. It's the difference between talking about it verses doing it. Some companies think that just because the having a meeting with the theme taking it to the next level means that they are actually doing it. The first thing you should talk about is whether or not you truly want to do whatever.

Greatness begins when people take a deep breath and say, "Well then let's throw out the way we've been doing it and get on with doing the way we say we are going to do it."

It's one thing to take a vow of progress in a hotel meeting room with 20 co-workers all in the same motivational frame of mind. It's quite another to get back to the office and begin the courageous work of executing the strategies that will help ensure that what was talked about will actually become a reality. This is where I help.

After the strategic planning and before execution I ask the following tough questions:

  • Do you really want to do this and are you willing to change what's worked up until now?
  • How far are you willing to take the change?
  • What is your tolerance for chaos?
  • How scared are you able to be and still function?
  • Are you willing to let go of things that worked in order to get to where you say you want to be?
  • When it comes right down to it what's really important around here?

Once a gut level of commitment to go is made everything changes. If everything doesn't change then you probably haven't made a commitment. If you find your company is undergoing a calm or well-organised transition with the hope of becoming extraordinary, chances are pretty good that you?re not making any transition at all .

There will be people supposedly part of the team that everyone knows in their hearts were not committed at all to the decision. They may have even been seriously opposed to it. And in bigger organisations this is particularly true.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned in execution...

The benefits

The process gives the following benefits:

  1. A far greater chance that the strategies will be completed, and completed on time and within budget
  2. All people necessary to implementing the strategy will have a deeper understanding of the overall strategy and their part within it
  3. This strategy will be completed more quickly
  4. The risk of falling into major traps will be reduced
  5. Better quality results
  6. More profit.

When to get help with execution

  1. Whenever managers are too busy
  2. When various parts of the organisation seem to have different agendas
  3. When manages are too close to be able to see things objectively
  4. When managers are political and the strategy requires the resources be allocated according to need rather of than historical patterns
  5. When barriers and silos need to be broken down
  6. When communications need to be faster and more open.

Probable outcomes of getting help with execution

  1. Managers have more time to manage their part of the change process
  2. Agendas within the organisations are managed more objectively
  3. Corrective actions are taken and in line with the strategic requirements
  4. Politics during the change process is minimised
  5. People see change process as fairer and more objective
  6. Dedicated resource to achieve an important role that usually can't be filled internally
  7. Communication and decision-making is significantly faster
  8. All staff have a greater commitment to the organisation and its goals.

Product support

This product has been developed and is supported by Bruce Holland with help where required from other members of the Virtual Group Business Consultants. Bruce is a specialist in business strategy Wellington, nationally and internationally. He specialises in public sector strategy and other large private sector organisations.

Guarantee

All work undertaken by Bruce Holland is guaranteed. If at the end of the program the client doesn't feel that they have received value for money, they may adjust the bill and pay an amount equal to the value they feel they received.

Key words: strategy, strategies, business strategy, business strategies, strategy management, strategic management, strategy development, implementation.

 
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