10 Guiding Principles to Manage Strategy Successfully

How often have you wondered why your strategy doesn’t seem to be working?   You might be experiencing slower progress then you expected, or in some areas, you might be experiencing complete inactivity.  Undoubtedly, planning and executing strategy can at times be quite frustrating, and obstacles seem to constantly get in the way of success.

Over our years as strategy management consultants working with privately held middle market companies, we have been exposed to a wide range of circumstances.  As a result, we have come to realize the value of some guiding principles Owners and CEOs can benefit from when developing and executing strategy.

Success of any strategy ultimately depends on the Chief Executive’s commitment and leadership to the strategy, as well as the skill and quality of management responsible for execution.  With this in mind, here are ten guidelines that should help your company profit from its strategy.

1. Focus on strategic issues and opportunities.   Don’t get bogged down with volumes of data and details.  Spend more time on strategic thinking.   Gather only relevant information to support business decisions.

2. Leveraging strengths.  Don’t try to change the organization into something it is not.  Companies need to focus on, and leverage, competitive advantages.

3. Vision is nothing without action.  Drive action with a detailed, explicit action plan.  Too often a strategy document ends up on a dusty shelf.  Make it happen right away.  Develop a detailed action plan and hold managers accountable for its execution.

4. Strategy execution is dynamic and continuous.  Be flexible.  The strategy is not static; rather it is a “work in progress.”  Be prepared to make changes, and move quickly on new opportunities.

5. Be sure everyone in your organization understands what you are doing.  Make your employees feel they are a part of the process and the success.  Don’t let rumors derail the efforts you are making.  Keep your employees informed of your progress and invite comments and questions.  Give your employees reasons to believe that the strategy will be beneficial to everyone.

6. Make sure your people are committed and accountable. Engage your employees in the development of strategic projects that support the achievement of the strategic objectives. Gaining employee involvement and jointly agreeing on what needs to get done will gain their commitment and accountability for executing the strategy.

7. Be prepared to deal with resistance to change.  On average one third of the organization will resist change and one third will be unsure of their position.  Identify the “fearless” employees that have embraced the strategy.  Acknowledge these leaders and allow them room to succeed.  At the same time, encourage those that are unsure to get involved, ask questions and help them find reasons to support the strategy.

8. Move the process along at a reasonably quick pace to create momentum and enthusiasm.  Schedule progress meetings on a regular basis.   Make strategy execution a priority and keep everyone interested and committed.  Your people will become energized by their contribution to the process.  Don’t let their day-to-day activities prevent them from making progress on their strategic projects.

9. Talk about and challenge the strategy often and with as many qualified people as possible.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming your strategy is perfect.  Use your network of respected business associates to question and challenge your strategy.  Don’t hesitate to ask others to help you make the strategy better.

10. Consider retaining a qualified outside resource to help facilitate the process.  As companies grow, the need for broader experience becomes greater.  An outside resource can provide credibility and invite creativity.

Without question, strategy management is an essential capability of every successful company.  It provides the process for sustained profitable growth.  Success ultimately depends upon senior management’s ability to provide the kind of leadership to develop a well thought out, fact based strategy, and to gain the support of the organization, creating the productive climate that will ensure its successful execution.