As a Strategy Execution Management (SEM) software and consulting business, the very topic of strategy execution is naturally near and dear to our hearts.
The big question that always hangs in the mist is “How do I get better strategy execution results?”
An article at Entrepreneur entitled “4 Steps to Successful Execution of a Strategy” lists the following keys to success:
- Set clear priorities
- Collect and analyze data
- Keep a rhythm to meetings
- Evaluate a strategy
No question. These are smart things to do. In fact we would add a few more such as, but not limited to:
- Paint the picture – vision, mission, purpose, goals
- Remain flexible
But they aren’t linear steps
We often use the acronym ART (articulate, revise, track). Plan Canvas is based on the ART method defined in the book Business is ART. All of the above “steps” fit neatly into this method as follows:
A – Paint the picture, set clear priorities, keep a rhythm to meetings, evaluate the strategy
R – Remain flexible, evaluate the strategy, set clear priorities, keep a rhythm to meetings
T – Collect and analyze data, keep a rhythm to meetings
But when we say “steps” we imply linear action – one foot in front of the other. In reality, it just doesn’t work that way. Note that some of the items occur in more than one category. For example, “evaluate the strategy” is both in the “A” and the “R” category.
Business (and life) is like a chessboard in which even the pieces you haven’t purposefully moved are, none-the-less, constantly in motion. There is no linear approach to managing such a chessboard – which may be one reason strategy execution success rates are so low…
Too often we apply linear thinking to non-linear realities.
However, the answer is not to ignore linear thinking because that just adds chaos to the non-linear reality. Our suggestion is to use linear thinking as a guideline, but remain flexible enough to shift priorities and change direction as needed – completing each “step” as it make sense to do so.
There are a couple of keys to this
There are a couple of keys to making sure you can do this. First, you have to be able to see the whole chessboard, all of the moving pieces, all of the places they could move, all at once. This is one of the critical reasons for painting the picture. But simply painting it isn’t enough. It has to be constantly on display for stakeholders to see and for you, yourself, to constantly study and refer back to.
In our opinion, the most critical key is to have a company culture that understands the painted picture, is on board with it, and is open to change/flexibility.
An article at Inc. entitled “The Truth About Strategy Execution” provides an excellent example as follows:
“At Salesforce.com, for example, every employee, including managers and senior executives, is required to share his or her goals and the weekly progress toward them with the entire company. Everyone’s performance is out in the limelight, no one can hide. The company’s success is well known, and Salesforce also consistently ranks as one of the most desirable places to work. Employees feel that the company’s unique culture pushes them to deliver their best work. Operational excellence is a boon to employee satisfaction and happiness.”
We put it this way. There is no separation between employee engagement and strategy execution. Strategy must address employee engagement and without employee engagement, strategy execution is much more difficult if not impossible.
That’s why we say the “steps” are mythical
The steps included in this post are important and necessary. But they aren’t linear. Further, in and of themselves, the steps are not a guarantee of success. The true key is as stated above.
That’s why Plan Canvas is different from other tools available. With it you first paint the picture. But unlike classic planning tools, that’s just the beginning. Next and continuously thereafter, you manage the plan.
That plan goes well beyond sales and financials, additionally focusing on company cultural and employee engagement concerns such as the employees themselves, the clients/customers, corporate social responsibility, and operational excellence.
In other words, with Plan Canvas you focus on the entire chessboard, all of its moving pieces, all of the places they can move, all of the time.