Strategy execution is really important. It’s a key source of sustainable competitive advantage for businesses and high performance for all organisations.
However, it is a challenge, especially in large and complex organisations. Strategy implementation failure is remarkably common. Andrew MacLennan conducts the Strategy Execution Capability Survey at London Business School, which reveals that around 60 percent of strategy execution efforts fail to achieve all their objectives.
Strategy execution is fundamentally about translating strategies into critical activities that will achieve organisation objectives. It is the glue between conceptual goals and concrete actions. If you prefer a more formal definition:
Crucially, strategy execution is not simply change management. Although it’s a very important challenge, managing change can destroy value if it is misaligned with valid strategic intent. Many organisations have both sound strategies and efficient operations, but suffer from a disconnect between the two. This can mean that capable, passionate people end up working hard to deliver the wrong things – something that Dr MacLennan’s research shows happens a great deal. Effective strategy implementation reduced that disconnect by focusing effort on delivering the right change.
The point that strategy is implemented through indirect manipulations of activities is important. Patterns of activity emerge over the relatively long term and and as leaders cannot attend to all activities themselves, they must create the right environment for them to occur in the right way.
Below is a simplified version of the Inverted Pyramid, a strategy execution framework developed through empirical research undertaken by Andrew MacLennan. It illustrates the challenges that leaders face in executing strategy: