Strategies without Execution: Real-life Hauntings

They say that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. I’ll take this a step further by saying that if you can achieve it, you likely dreamed it up as well; and a recent HBR study proves that’s true. According to the results, 62% of great strategists are also great executors, while 73 percent of great executors are also great strategists.

There is a Japanese proverb that says, "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” What we can take from it is this: having people in your camp who can both strategize and deliver on those strategies is crucial to the success of your business.

Organizations spend lots of money on strategy development. Many even hire consulting firms like McKinsey to help them design daydream-like strategies. Yet, most quickly turn to nightmares. In fact, 75% of organizations struggle to implement the strategies they work so hard (and pay so much) to create.

How do you turn the tables? Perfecting your hiring practices by taking a deeper look into the track records of your senior managers is a great starting point. Beyond that, you need methodologies in place that reinforce the importance of effective execution.

Here are five crucial components according to HBR:

  1. Responsibility. Everyone has a job and fully understands it. This requires open communication and consistency in messaging. It also requires an open door policy on questions and problems, as well as a good performance-to-reward tie-in.

  2. Important competitive information gets elevated quickly. Delays in such information can have catastrophic effects, such as first-to-market moves. Thanks to open communication and a free-flow policy, employees are encouraged and rewarded for getting such information to the top as quickly as possible.

  3. Once made, decisions are rarely second-guessed. When responsibility is handled well, there is little reason to second-guess a strategy. Doing so only stalls the process and creates more room for failure.

  4. Information flows freely across organizational boundaries. Free-flow of communication doesn’t only occur vertically. It must flow horizontally as well. Yet, we’ve discovered that only 59 percent of employees feel they can rely on colleagues in other departments, and only 56 percent of external partners. This is an issue with silos in organizations and is something management must actively work to discourage.

  5. Employees have the information they need to succeed. This takes trust and empowerment, something managers can struggle with extolling out. Yet, when you have the right people in the right places, with a knowledge and understanding of their responsibilities, the best thing management can do is empower them with the information they need to understand how their choices impact the bottom line.