Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Connecting The Dots Between Strategy and Execution

Connecting The Dots Between Strategy and Execution

“Strategic Execution” is one of those nebulous concepts that everyone claims to understand, but no one can really define.  It seems self-explanatory that effective strategic execution should start with a well-defined strategy, but this is unfortunately where many executives lose their way.  Rather than focus too much on strategy, everyone wants to jump directly into “execution,” because that is where leaders think they can have the most immediate and direct impact.  But executing anything without following the strategic reason for it is like putting the cart before the horse.
Strategy isn’t really all that difficult.  It is simply the purposeful decision to be something by a certain time in the future.  Seriously, its that simple.  If your organization decides it wants to be the recognized market leader in widget distribution by 2050, you’ve just established your strategy.  Good strategy is really about setting a goal, picking a niche, considering internal and external factors and establishing a deadline.  Strategies can take many forms across the spectrum of time.  Long-term strategy is usually a “softer goal” that defines the organization’s intended place in the market, while mid-range strategies are typically more focused and include specific areas of operational improvement or adjustment, milestones and more detailed plans or objectives.
By the time a strategy has been thought out, defined and planned, it begins to take on more of an implementation or execution-based look and feel.  Rather than statements of intention, execution plans define specific actions, approaches, timeboxes and resources being put to task in making the strategy real.  Sounds a lot like project management all of a sudden doesn’t it?  That’s not by accident.  In fact, that is why project management exists!  To bring order to a set of activities that are purposely designed and planned to bring about organizational strategy.

Projects, and project management approaches, are the ultimate mechanism through which organizational strategy is delivered.  For most, the execution of strategic direction requires that a number of projects be initiated, each with a unique and varied impact across the entire organization.  This requires a high degree of skill and knowledge in the areas of organization, prioritization, compromise and planning.  Many companies tackle this challenge through the use of project portfolios.
Portfolios serve as a great “middle man” between strategic intent and actual delivery.  They are commonly used to organize all of the project-based work needed to meet strategic plans and then seek to optimize available organizational resources by establishing a schedule or roadmap of project execution.  The goal of any portfolio-based approach is maximize the value of the overall portfolio investments and to balance the strategic fit, timing and sequencing, investment risk, operational capability and resource capacity.
Within a portfolio, the actual work is completed via individual projects and by following project management discipline.  The execution of any great organizational strategy happens at the project level.  Because of the delivery-based discipline, the control mechanisms used for potential changes, the measurement of performance metrics and the management of risks and issues, project management serves and a vital tool for strategic execution.
Strategic implementation, on the other hand, involves making decisions regarding how the organization’s resources (i.e. people, processes and systems) will be allocated, aligned, prioritized and mobilized towards achieving the identified strategic goals and objectives.  Successful project execution also results from activities that are well planned, communicated, aligned from top-to-bottom, monitored, controlled, managed and rewarded.
Strategic execution remains both a buzzword and a legitimate focus for executive management teams.  Strategic planning and road-mapping activities are often much easier than the bare-knuckle hard work that comes with executing those plans.  But smart executive teams, the one’s with an effective project portfolio system and highly-skilled Project Management Office, will be able to leverage those tools, resources and experts for successful competitive advantage!

1 comment:

  1. Simply put, management controls are the operational methods that enable work to proceed as expected. statlook