Making the most of your strategy execution
Understanding strategy execution is the first step in improving it for your organization. But successful strategy execution process doesn't occur by trying to do everything all at once. Some efforts produce greater results than others.
Through our experience in strategy planning, alignment and activation, execution, and assessment and adaptation, we’ve distilled our best practices for strategy execution. These tips are a non-exhaustive, practical starting point for kickstarting an effective strategy execution journey.
In this article, we’ll explore best practices for strategy execution, covering:
- Team responsibilities
- Corporate strategy
- OKRs and KPIs
- Information silos
Strategy execution tip #1: Be clear on individual responsibilities
Imagine your teams not knowing who is working on which projects or who to report to. How can collaboration, accountability, or alignment thrive in this environment?
Clarity is the catalyst for effective strategy execution.
Clarity creates visibility. Visibility creates accountability. Accountability creates results.
As a general concept thought leaders love to throw around, clarity is aspirational but abstract — so how can clarity become tactically approachable for you?
Uncertainty between decision-makers creates conflicts within teams, leaders, and processes, leading to a lack of clarity. For example:
- If a leader assumes someone is making a decision (but they aren’t), time is wasted
- If a leader believes they have decision making rights (but they don’t), conflict is created
- If a team member waits for or bypasses approval, time is wasted
- If a leader needs approval from another leader, who needs approval from another leader, inefficient bureaucracy is reinforced
Endless scenarios can demonstrate the chaos that ensues from poor clarity. Larger organizations are especially vulnerable, as leadership may frequently change or roles grow more ambiguous.
Improving clarity on responsibilities directly contributes to better results, making it a must-have best practice for strategy execution.
Strategy execution tip #2: Make corporate strategy approachable and scalable
Clarity doesn’t just help sort out individual responsibilities. Corporate strategy can be painfully vague and ambiguous — creating a clear strategy is the first step to approachability.
Without a clear corporate strategy, business and functional strategies operate in disarray and the strategy chain is broken before it can begin!
Consider then how this strategy scales as your company or the market changes. Building scale into strategy is an insurance policy against unpredictability.
But why are clarity and scalability so necessary in corporate strategy and effective strategy execution?
Clarity for an approachable strategy
When the corporate strategy is transparent and well-understood, it allows information to flow freely throughout the organization, reducing the lag between strategy and execution. As corporate strategy informs business and functional strategies, it creates a symbiotic relationship — an approachable corporate strategy leads to healthy execution.
With a clear, approachable corporate strategy, teams are more closely connected to the company’s vision, and as a result, aligned in their efforts to drive measurable impact.
Approachability isn’t enough, however. Building a scalable strategy means dedicating the right resources for alignment, execution, and adaptation at any level.
But why scalability?
Scalability for preventing resource waste
The strategy that works for 10 people likely won’t work for 100 people. The same goes for the jump from 100 to 1,000. The difficulty of strategic communication compounds as your organization scales.
Building strategy to scale is ensuring that in six months or a year, you don't have to completely redo the structure and approach of your entire organization.
By being more intentional about the scalability of your corporate strategy upfront, you’re saving time and money in the future.
Strategy execution tip #3: Align finances with strategy planning
Imagine this: you’ve built the best strategy in your industry. It’s guaranteed to shake up the competition and thrust your business into the forefront of your customers’ minds. Everyone is excited about the rollout, leadership believes in the concept, and the figurative runway is prepared for takeoff!
Just one problem: you forgot to talk about costs.
A great strategy without the resources to execute it is pointless.
Finances raise the question of practicality — can our ambitious strategy actually be deployed? As noted in Clear Point Strategy, creating the financial plan in a silo, away from the strategy, is a recipe for failure in both processes.
Financial resources should be actively considered within the strategy, instead of being plugged in at the last minute. This is not possible without clear communication about the strategy and cross-functional collaboration between finance, leadership, and any other stakeholders.
Strategy execution tip #4: Incorporate OKRs and KPIs in strategy planning
Performance management indicators are amongst the necessary best practices for strategy execution, making your strategy measurable.
Demonstrating results helps every level of your organization, whether showing your team’s progress, measuring the health of your strategy, or catching red flags early.
OKRs and KPIs are practical tools for closing the gap between strategy and execution. Here’s how OKRs and KPIs give you critical insights into your strategy execution process.
OKRs help you create smarter goals. Ambitious objectives combined with the proof of key results are a long-term solution for deploying strategy. Objectives may shift as your strategic priorities do, while key results enforce actions that drive real impact.
Because OKRs are a transparent system, accountability becomes a pillar in the strategic planning process. Initiatives are clearly tied to impact, and the ownership of goals aligns individuals to strategic outcomes.
Learn how OKRs can enhance your strategy
KPIs (key performance indicators) can be incorporated into OKRs, providing a purely quantitative feedback loop. As the health monitor of your active goals and business-as-usual processes, KPIs can be fine-tuned to reflect your strategic priorities.
As a bonus, automated KPIs allow minimal effort for continuous data feedback. The habit of strategic check-ins will naturally extend beyond KPIs too, creating higher chances of success for your strategy execution.
Learn how OKRs and KPIs work together
Strategy execution tip #5: Identify and clear information silos
The cause of silos, and how severe they are, is usually correlated to the size of the organization. Regardless of your organization’s size, deploying information the right way is one of the secrets to successful strategy execution.
For example, information silos inhibit startup organizations by stifling the innovation and agility they thrive on for their competitive advantage. In full-scale enterprises, they cost millions of dollars in inefficiencies and disruption.
Clarity continues repeating as a theme for our tips, and for good reason.
The free flow of information from top-to-bottom creates more opportunities for collaboration and promotes organizational efficiency.
So how can you clear information silos? Identify ambiguity:
- Where are processes being held up?
- Who are the key decision-makers?
- What is repetitively causing friction?
Typically, more transparent and effective strategy execution processes have less bureaucracy which leads to information silos. A system like OKRs ensures transparency is more than an afterthought or ambition.
Learn about transparency, alignment, and other benefits of OKRs in business
Strategy execution tip #6: Eliminate micromanagement
Good strategy execution requires making the right decisions at the right time. The more frequently one decision corresponds with one person, the more effective your strategy execution process will be.
When ample time is spent defining and deploying the strategy, teams will have a clear vision for executing it. Clarity enables autonomy for team decision-making, reducing the total number of decision makers and improving efficiency in your strategic process.
However, this assumes leaders and managers trust your teams. Micromanagement doesn't just plague organizations by hindering employee efficiency and confidence — it’s simply not practical for the modern operating model.
A culture of second-guessing comes from the inability of leadership to relinquish control, due to mistrust or otherwise poor communication of strategic direction.
As Harvard Business Review suggests, unnecessarily cascading decision-making crushes accountability in teams and eliminates efficiency. Managers have roles for a reason and so do individual contributors.
Influence from leaders in the organization should be about guiding process, not controlling it.
Strategy execution tip #7: Customize work for strategy, not strategy for work
Managing expectations is a renowned piece of advice for leaders. However, what your teams are traditionally responsible for and what the strategy calls for may not always align.
For example, a manager may be hired to do a job that aligns with the previous, outdated strategy. After updating the strategy, the manager’s expertise is no longer aligned with the strategy, which can create inefficiencies and friction for the manager and their teams.
What’s more effective — changing the entire strategy to fit the needs of one person, or adapting the role to fit better within the strategy?
Strategy can’t work at its fullest potential if parts of it are cherry-picked or molded to static job responsibilities. The strategy must exist because it is effective, not because it fits in a box.
Your organization must create work and jobs that align with the strategy. Work for the sake of work, or work because “it has always been this way,” is not effective. Data from Harvard Business School backs this up: jobs that align with strategic needs contribute to successful strategy execution.
Facilitate the effective execution of strategy
Clarity. Alignment. Transparency. All critical characteristics in the tips you’ve learned for strategy execution. But what’s next?
Along with the guidance from our strategy execution guide — which covers how to get better at strategy and best practices for strategy execution — you’ve got a starting point for creating, deploying, and executing a strategy. It might be tempting to jump in head-first and start defining your strategy immediately.
But why work harder when you can work smarter?
Check out our “Read Next” article to learn about the strategy execution gap and how top businesses close it
Quantive is your bridge between strategy and execution. Founded on the objectives and key results (OKR) methodology, our Strategy Execution Platform is where businesses plan successful strategy, focus and align teams to it, and stay on the leading edge of progress.
As your company looks to achieve the best possible results, you need a modern approach to run your business and change your business. The Modern Operating Model brings strategy, teams, and data together to help make decisions faster, optimize operations, and drive better business outcomes.
Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps get you where you want to go.
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