4 Ways to Overcome Strategy Execution Roadblocks

Does this sound familiar to you? You’ve held your strategic planning meeting with your management team late last year, identified key strategic projects, assigned responsibilities and you were off and running. Everyone was on board, or so it seemed. What’s happening? Why are we not making any progress against these projects that are critical to our long term strategic objectives? If this is familiar to you, don’t be surprised. You are not alone.

Our experience with clients (and reading from execution guru like Franklin Covey’s 4 Disciplines of Execution and The Execution Premium by Robert Kaplan and David Norton) tell us that the urgency and energy needed to run the day-to-day business will win over strategy projects every time. It’s not that your managers and employees are not smart or incapable. Rather the urgency of the moment will sap time and resources away without anyone realizing it until it’s too late.

The good news…it is possible to balance these two competing tensions, the day-to-day running of the business and important strategic projects. Companies that put in place an organized, continuous strategy execution management process will successfully manage the clash of these two forces, and your employees will thank you for it. Consider the following four principles for strengthening your organizations strategy execution capabilities:

1. Do less, get more – The “Law of diminishing returns” states that the more you expect, the less will be completed. If you try to do too many strategic projects, while holding all other day-to-day activities constant, performance will suffer. Be selective and set priorities so that employees can realistically manage the day-to-day activities and be held accountable to completing key strategic projects.

2. Lead measures drive lag measures –To ensure progress toward achieving the organization’s objectives, leadership teams need to define lead measures that are predicative of lag measures. Move beyond managing the business on metrics that are after the fact to lead measures that will provide guidance on progress toward achieving those lag measures.

3. Monitor progress – Tracking progress against lead measures and project activity is critical to ensure accountability. Transparent reporting of results will give project leaders and management visibility on progress and they will gain a greater appreciation of the strategy and the organization’s progress against achievement of its objectives.

4. Meet regularly – Schedule standing monthly meetings with your direct reports to discuss progress against project milestones. Progress meetings will ensure that project champions and team members are maintaining focus on the right things. Without regularly scheduled meetings, employees will succumb to their natural tendency, namely the urgency of the day-to-day running of the business.

These four principles of strategy execution are easier said than done. It explains why many CEO’s and their leadership teams struggle with achieving their strategic objectives. However, experience working with our own clients has shown that by investing the time and resources to adopt a robust strategy execution process will significantly improve your odds of achieving your strategic objectives. Do you have an experience with strategy execution you would like to share with us? We would welcome your stories and comments.