There isn't a single, simple answer to a complex question like "Why is Strategy Execution so hard?" The reasons can vary depending on things such as your industry, size, or geography. But I've found that some aspects seem to be in common - and I'd like to share my findings with you, hoping it will help you along the way.
To get us started, let me share a quote. It has quite a powerful message and is a good basis before going forward in this article.
"We had high activity, everybody was fully focused and moving forward. Yet, we were so inefficient as we were all going in different directions, driven by individual agendas. If we hadn't had the courage to change together, I don't know where we'd be today - if we'd even still be here?" - CEO at a midsize company in the U.S.
Thankfully, this company had the ability to realise their challenges and could take proper measures to get on a better path. But what was this company doing, or not doing, that got them in that position in the first place?
Work-force engagement is vital. A study shows that worldwide only 15% of the work force feel engaged in their work. Fifteen percent! That is a bafflingly low figure.
It's important to clarify that an employee's happiness isn't the same as their engagement. Your employee can be content with the benefits you offer them but still feel unengaged in the work they do. Engaged employees work more efficiently, are more productive, have less sick leave and, basically, care about your business. The hard truth is that if you don't have an engaged work force, you won't be having employees who care to reach your goals.
Still not convinced? Here are some numbers that should get your attention:
- Low work staff engagement cost U.S. companies $450-500 Billion each year, according to a study from the Engagement Institute.
- Companies with a highly engaged work force are 21% more profitable, according to an analysis by Gallup.
"Okay, I'm with you - but how to engage then?" From what I have learned, it's crucial to let employees be a part of the planning and definition of Objectives, KPIs and Activities (that is, your strategy). This allows an employee to feel seen and heard. Also, if employees have been involved in formulating a strategy they can more easily identify with it, and will feel a higher responsibility to help achieve it.
Equally important is the follow-up process. If nobody in management cares to follow-up on the fantastic efforts done by the work force, engagement will be dropping. Follow-ups send a signal that this is important and has a purpose for the corporate direction.
As a company starts growing ambitious people wants to make a mark - you could be getting a company going in many directions simultaneously. As a manager, it's hard to steer this ship if you don't have the proper tools to help you.
Alignment means getting your workforce to work in the same direction, towards the same objectives. Of course different functions will do different things, but the overall aim of tasks, activities and projects should be towards the corporate vision and goals - all the while keeping that fire burning in your ambitious individuals and an engaged work force.
In order to succeed with this, you need the following;
- A clearly defined, and accessible, corporate vision and direction
- An easy way to be able to connect tasks, activities and projects towards this vision and direction, and have this connection visible to employees and managers
- A culture where individuals are allowed to ask "is this really aligned with X?", "Should we really be doing this?" etc.
It's hard to track engagement and alignment, and to forecast your strategy's success, if you don't have an easy way to follow progress and deviations. This is important, otherwise you don't know if you are on the right track, and what measures to take.
It's not uncommon that once a business starts growing, the amount of digital tools used have grown equally and without regulation - making overview harder as the data is spread in many places, while different business units probably probably are using different tools and systems.
To get a grip on your overview, you should:
- Consolidate your systems, so that you can use fewer but for the same purpose
- Steer your employees to work in the same systems
- Look into which systems should be integrated with each other so that in the end, you hopefully only have one place to go to in order to track all relevant data.
I hope this article has given you some insights to identify where your challenges may lay and what measures you could take to overcome them! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!