The Interstellar Strategy Execution Gap

Leyya Kalla, Hasnayn Ebrahim

27 February 2017

The importance of developing a great strategy is crucial to any organisation’s ongoing success. Visionary and successful leaders invest heavily in the resources required to ensure that their strategy is relevant, robust and appropriately benchmarked. Formulating strategy generally, is an elegant and sophisticated process of collecting and analysing data, generating insights and identifying smart paths forward.

Once the strategy is developed however…

For those who spent the time helping craft the strategies, there is an initial burst of optimism and excitement for the possibilities that emerge. For the staff who are now becoming aware of pending changes or shifts in strategic focus, there may be shared excitement or uncertainty for the unknown. This creates potential opportunities or challenges for the organisation.

In most cases, the opportunity for change, transformation and progress is lost. The moment the Executives return from their workshops and off-site getaways to realize that executing the well-crafted strategy takes up enormous amounts of management time and focus shifts back to the day-to-day operations – momentum is lost and our elegant strategies then make their way into very expensive storage compartments!

Employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization weak at execution—that is, when asked if they agreed with the statement “Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action,” the majority answered no.1 The pragmatic approach to making vision a reality may only ever exist in those same elegant documents that describe them and very rarely at the fingertips of the executors.

Execution is the result of thousands of decisions made every day by employees acting according to the information they have coupled with the impetus of their own self-interest. Organizations assume that in order to influence those decisions, changes in their organizational structure or management style would result in efficiencies, but these are at best short term solutions. For those organizations that can outsource the management of their execution phase, they too experience short term gains in its implementation, but far deeper impacts on their consulting budget.

Too many great visions fall into that big black hole that exists between vision and execution. This ‘interstellar strategy execution gap’ has made most strategy execution consulting firms successful. I wonder how many of these consultants have asked their clients and themselves what they could design to remove their need in the market, not many I am sure. The solutions these firms sell to their clients are the practical interventions to people, culture and process, but the key factor most frequently overlooked, is the barrier to adhere to the those interventions.

The administrative burden surrounding ensuring that implementation, monitoring and reporting on a new strategy is so cumbersome that the organization simply falls back into their entrenched behaviours. This is due to the fact that organizations do not place as much effort into developing their strategies as they do into ensuring that following them is made as simple and easy for all. Five percent of the challenge is the strategy. Ninety-five percent is the execution.

That is precisely where strategi.exe design efforts have been placed; removing the administrative burden of developing and executing strategies. Collaborating on an online platform, with built in analytics and visualisations, prompts and reminders, ensures that that the entire organisations focus is aligned to their key strategic objectives. The strategy is then accessed updated, monitored, measured and reported on, organisation-wide, enabling and allowing for a transparent culture to emerge whilst simultaneously easing communication across silos. By returning both leadership and staff productive time and reducing their administration, their focus and impetus can return to those key decisions that require the organization to move forward on its strategic trajectory.

Leyya Kalla is an Executive Director of strategi.exe, aStrategy Execution Solution, Director of Quintessence Development Solutions, consulting firm, a viral networker and development banking activist residing in South Africa.

Hasnayn Ebrahim is an Managing Director of strategi.exe and Executive Director of Africa International Advisors, a Management Consultancy operating on some of South Africa’s largest Public and Private Sectors entities for the past 15 years.

1Harvard Business Review, The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution, Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, Elizabeth Powers, 2008

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