Strategy Execution: The Problem and Solution

Lawrence M. Miller, Institute for Leadership Excellence
A free video tutorial from Lawrence M. Miller, Institute for Leadership Excellence
Best Selling Instructor, Author & Leadership Coach
4.5 instructor rating • 16 courses • 125,561 students

Lecture description

Why is strategy execution such a problem for our organizations? In this lecture I define the basic reasons for the problem and the most essential components of the solution.


The Problem:

  • Only senior leaders involved. The plan is not “owned” by those who must implement the plan.
  • Strategy often defines the future business and economic performance, but not the means to get there – the future processes, culture and capabilities.
  • Strategy execution is too often a vertical, silo-ed, MBO process and does not create horizontal alignment.
  • It is too often not “agile”, dynamic, responsive to changes on the landscape. Not viewed as a whole-system.

The Solution:

  • Most important – have an ongoing process of culture and capability building.
  • Be agile in adapting to external threats and opportunities.
  • Strategy execution must be horizontal and vertical to create alignment.
  • Deliberately and systematically design the system to be “capable” – the processes and social systems.
  • Engage everyone in the process of executing the strategy. Form strategy design and deployment teams. .

Learn more from the full course

Business Strategy Execution: Agile Organization Design

Transforming Culture and Capabilities to Execute Business Strategy: The Agile Way to Business Strategy Success

11:08:05 of on-demand video • Updated March 2020

  • To create a process of agile action to achieve strategic business goals.
  • To align the internal technical systems (work process), social systems, and economic system to achieve business strategy.
  • To achieve agile adaptation and alignment of the organization's systems, structure, skills, style and symbols.
  • To engage the maximum number of leaders and associates in the process of building the future culture and capabilities that will lead to sustainable performance.
English [Auto] I again friends I'd like to describe the problem and the solution a bit more clarity a bit more detail. Now the problem with doing a course like this you have to speak in generalities. So obviously I don't know what the problem is in an organization and you may say as I described the problem you may say well that's not us. We don't have that problem. And that's fine. I'm sure you know much better than I do. But generally speaking there are common problems that are associated with executing strategy. And if you understand the problem then that will lead us towards an effective solution and the solution is usually the opposite of the problem. So you can understand the problem you turn it upside down and you have you have the solution. So one problem is that too often only the senior management team or a very thin layer of senior managers are engaged in the development of strategy. Now when you develop something you feel ownership for it and you think it's right and good and so forth. That's understandable. But people who are not engaged in it even though you may explain that to them don't feel the same ownership and don't understand it in the same way because they were not engaged in it. So we're going to need to find a way to engage a lot of people in the process. Now this graphic I described the four Ds already the discovery dream design and deploy there there's some stuff that comes before that design process and the work of design teams which is the work of a steering team and they're going to do the assessment of the current state of the culture and they're going to develop a list of capabilities that they want in the future organization in order to achieve the strategic direction that they find. And then they're going to give it to the design team and then a lot of people are going to be engaged in the Agile implementation of that process. So we have a solution to that in the in the process. A second problem strategy or that strategy often defines the future of the business and economic performance. In other words we want to grow to be twice our size. We want to double our rate of return our profitability. Those are fine strategic goals but they don't define the means of getting there. They don't define what processes we need in place. What are the capabilities of those processes and what kind of a culture. You know Peter Drucker said culture eats strategy for breakfast. What does that mean. It means if you don't have the culture that's combat compatible with the strategy who you want to be when you grow up you can't get there. So we have to pay attention to the culture and the kind of culture that we want to have as well as the process capabilities too often strategy is vertically siloed. In other words within the manufacturing unit of an organization you may have 10 manufacturing plants right and you have research and development over there and you have marketing and sales over there. The development of strategy within manufacturing is left to manufacturing and they go about their business developing plants and so forth. But marketing and R&D they're doing what they think is right. Everybody's doing what they think is right but they're doing it in a silo and doing it independently and that creates misalignment through the horizontal units of an organization. And work doesn't flow vertically workflows horizontally. So you must create alignment and it's not a one time thing it's not something you do you know at that annual strategic planning event or the five year development of a strategic plan. It's something that must be ongoing and there must be a process for doing it in an ongoing way too often strategy is not agile or dynamic which means we set it in place and we you know we believe in power we believe in the authority and we say if we're going to go there and tell everybody to get to work and get us there that that somehow because we have the authority to tell people to go there that they will get there. And that's just not reality and it's not reality because things are changing in that external environment. Right. Technology is changing markets are changing etc. and we have to be changing and developing adapting to that. And we have to be creating that alignment and we have to do it in an ongoing agile way and we generally don't have the process. We don't view the organization as a whole system the social technical and economic system we're either engaged in the social system or engaged in the technical system and that's another siloed mentality and they completely overlap so we have to deal with the social technical and economic systems in a holistic way. I know and this is complexity theory of complex systems. But that's the reality of organizations and we have to have a way of doing that. And we're going to give you a way of doing it. So the solution not surprisingly it's the opposite of the problem. We need to have a way of engaging everyone in the process. It may not be engaging everyone in setting the strategic direction but we have to have a way of engaging people in thinking and deciding and planning and experimenting. Having fun in the pursuit of the overall strategy. So they have to have a domain in which they can make decisions. They can design the solution and they can experiment with that. If you keep that thinking at the top and you don't create that thinking and engagement down at the bottom or various at all levels it's very difficult to get there. So engagement and I know that's sort of a buzzword that many CEOs are rightfully sick of because consultants have used the term engagement to sell programs and they end up just being programs. But we need a way of engaging people on an ongoing basis that's real in the design of real stuff. Deliberately and systematically designed the system to be capable and this is really thinking about what are those capabilities. Do we need to develop the capability of social media marketing just for example. And that is a capability you know an organization that has marketed in a completely different way it does not know how to do that. They don't have the capability of doing that. Well do we need to develop that capability or do we need to develop some other you know capability of you know online ordering an online delivery and you know who knows why. I mean there are so many capabilities that are changing today but we need to design the capabilities into the process and the social science strategy execution and must create both horizontal and vertical alignment. This graphic you know you can see that were pretty good at the vertical alignment of creating and below or or using the balance scorecard from top to bottom. But we don't do this we don't do it horizontally well and the process that I'm going to propose to you creates that horizontal as well as vertical alignment and that's absolutely essential. We need to be agile we need to be very responsive to changes in the external environment. We have to have a process of deliberate conversation about those changes across units in the organization and most important we have to have an ongoing process of culture and capability building and we can't see it as such as a one time thing or a fixed thing. People need to be responsible people need to be held accountable for building the culture that will get us there and building those capabilities. So if I asked the senior executive in your organization for this unit this business unit down there or this department or what are the processes and what are the capabilities they're building into those processes that will get you to the strategy. Can they answer that question if they can't answer that question. They need to be able to answer that question. So I hope that helps define the problem solution better. And really these are the objectives of the Course. This is what we're going to be doing throughout the course and we're going to be doing it. If you just look at this diagram with the steering team the design team and then the operating teams the dispersed leaders and the organization are going to be engaged in an ongoing basis in that and I'll hope that makes sense. Thanks a lot.