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Strategy execution is a hot topic in management today. In fact, the Conference Board’s recent Survey of CEOs revealed that chief executives are so concerned about strategy execution that they rated it as both their number one and number two most challenging issue. For anyone who’s tried to execute strategy, this finding should come as no surprise: it’s estimated that more than 60% of strategies are not successfully implemented.

When asked to define strategy execution, most managers respond with statements like, “It’s the successful implementation of a strategic plan” or “It’s getting your strategy done.” While these perspectives are certainly valid, they aren’t very helpful in terms of understanding what needs to be done to actually drive business results.

Within every organization, decision making drives performance.  Every employee comes to work every day and makes decisions that impact performance.

The workplace has many temptations that employees must resist, from the petty impulse to claim credit for someone else’s work, to the unscrupulous lapse of lying in a negotiation, to the criminal act of misrepresenting financial numbers.

These decisions, at every level of the organization, define the corporate culture, and drive performance.

In 2008, Harvard Business School Professor Robert S. Kaplan and his Palladium Group colleague David P. Norton wrote The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage.  They outline six stages in their management system:
1. Develop the strategy
2. Plan the strategy
3. Align the organization
4. Plan operations
5. Monitor and learn
6. Test and adapt

Using Kaplan and Norton’s work as a guide, a proactive leadership team can follow a process to execute strategy.

Step 1: Visualize the strategy.

Step 2: Communicate strategy.

Step 3: Identify strategic projects.

Step 4: Align projects with strategy.

Step 5: Align individual roles and provide incentives.

Step 6: Manage projects.

Step 7: Make decisions aligned with strategy.

Step 8: Measure the strategy.

Step 9: Report progress.

Step 10: Reward performance.

One of the critical steps is to align individual roles and provide incentives that encourage high performance and intraprenuership while enforcing rules and aligning decision making with the company’s goals and strategy.

No one likes surprises or having to air their dirty laundry in public.

The leadership team can deploy a number of tools to implement and maintain a high performance culture, including:

1)      Effective policy management (utilizing an online policy library)

2)      Employee assessment surveys

3)      Performance Scorecards

4)      Event management and reporting

5)      Annual certificates to a Code of Conduct


With the right tools in place, board directors and the leadership team could have the actionable intelligence they need on an ongoing basis to gain confidence in their strategy, their CEO, and how well the organization is doing to execute the strategy and comply with laws, rules and regulations.


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