Execution risk – How do you sleep?

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I received a request recently to help a company build strategy. I don’t work on developing strategy very often so I declined and found them someone who works in this area. I prefer to work on the next step – Execution of strategy.

I feel strategy execution is a huge risk for leaders which requires constant attention. Does strategy execution keep you up at night?

Your strategy is fine. You can have a bad strategy of course but likely your strategy is fine.

Here’s the challenge:

  • Your strategy is a series of steps that must be executed successfully.
  • Each step builds on the next.
  • When you think about strategy your mind is always focused on the future.
  • You train yourself to think in probabilities.
  • You make assumptions that pieces are in place as you plan some strategic result in the future.

That last bullet point is the part that could keep you awake at night worrying.

Your entire strategy could shatter into a pile of glass shards if any single piece isn’t executed properly.

Worse, if preliminary components of your strategy aren’t executed you would/should do something totally different.

Unfortunately strategy is too big a ship to turn quickly. People bought into the strategy and we keep plodding forward even when success is very unlikely.

Try this four-step process with your next big strategy rollout:

1. Break it down

Picture the boardroom. Participants are anxiously awaiting the ‘supreme leader.’ The CEO breezes in with gravitas, unveils the great vision, drops the mic, and leaves.

The problem with mission and vision statements…we just stop there.

It’s important to explain the ‘why’ of course. It’s just as important to discuss the ‘how.’ By discuss I mean being involved in determining the best possible how to get the strategy component executed. This is an ongoing conversation, not just a communication event.

Create schedules and milestone measurements along the journey. Monitor. Adjust.

Break things down. Discuss alternatives. Discuss contingencies.

You understand the strategy the best. You have the umbrella view as well.

Therefore you need to be involved in the contingency and problem solving process to ensure the best possible choices are made. You can do some great teaching here too.

2. Listen

Actively seek input from those involved in execution. Are expectations being met? What are the indicators of success or failure? How will this intelligence factor into adjusting plans?

3. Prove or adjust

We are constantly testing our strategy. There was quite a bit of crystal ball gazing that went into the strategy. Are things proving out? What’s no longer valid? Change your mind if necessary.

4. Promote 60/40 behavior

Consciously promote 60/40 behavior. Make The New Leadership Normal the norm. Watch for cross-boundary blocks and eliminate them.

To do this week: What percentage of your activities are directly tied to strategy execution? Identify shifts you can make. Do you anticipate any shifts based on today’s message?

Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On February 11, 2019
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