The path from strategy to execution should be energizing and inherently inspirational.
This material may not be broadly applicable but it discusses when the leader or someone of importance in a company have a compelling ideas.
Business leaders know that great strategies with great execution produce winning companies. They also know that winning companies are far outnumbered by mediocre ones. What they may not realize is that it’s the path from strategy to execution that often separates the two.
The typical path goes something like this: You start by setting your goals. These could be financially oriented (grow earnings a certain amount by so-and-so year) or strategic (become the leader in this-or-that market). Then you prioritize the actions that will get you there: invest here, cut there, reorganize this, buy that. And then you implement like mad: align the organization around your goals and priorities, review your progress quarterly, reward performance accordingly, and so on. Of course, some companies are much better than others at following this track. That could explain the difference between winning and mediocre companies — but in my experience something much more significant is at play....
...Walter (Cardinal Health), Schultz (Starbucks), Bravo, and Zeitz (Puma) could have generated all the goals, actions, and implementation discipline that any “world class” executive would have wanted, but that would not have been enough to create a winning enterprise. Instead, they designed innovative strategies based on novel ideas they owned unconditionally, and their commitment to those ideas enabled them to lead their companies through thick and thin to execute their strategies. In other words, their path was problem-idea-strategy-leadership, not goals-actions-implementation.
This tells us that mastering the strategy-to-execution challenge starts by asking two questions:
• What’s the big problem your company or business is trying to solve?• What’s the big idea you have for solving it?
If you have compelling answers to these questions, you can proceed to the next two:
• What strategy does your company or business have for commercializing its big idea?• Do your company’s leaders own the idea as if it was their own (if it isn’t already their own)?
Unfortunately, too many companies cannot make it past the first two questions. When that’s the case, they inevitably slide into a form of sleepwalking through an endless cycle of goals-actions-implementation — a cycle that’s doomed to produce mediocrity. And that’s no fun for the leaders or their organizations.
The path from strategy to execution should be energizing and inherently inspirational. You shouldn’t need vision, mission, and purpose statementsto have that kind of atmosphere. It won’t work anyway. The fact is all companies (even the most “disciplined”) are a mess when you look inside them, with runaway bureaucracy, spirited politics, dispiriting waste, and pointless meetings. These everyday realities will suck the joy and energy out of anyone. To overcome them, you need leaders who have an exciting idea that solves a big problem, and a genuine commitment to seeing it through. This begets an organization with people who, even as they deal with the inanities of corporate life, intrinsically want to follow their leaders. That is how you master the strategy-to-execution challenge.