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Five Ways To Improve Your Results With Strategy Execution Success

Emily Frieze-Kemeny | CEO and Founder of AROSE Group | a leadership consulting firm that bridges humanity and profitability. Access the original article, published on Forbes via the Forbes Business Council.

"Our people are not executing on the strategy." This is the top frustration I hear from senior leaders. These leaders believe they have set a clear strategy and realistic goals, yet they aren’t seeing the expected results.

This often leads executives to look into things like work-from-home policies, the work ethic of the newer generations, the skills of managers and whether they are holding people accountable for performance.

While there is no one simple reason strategy execution falters, my experience has led me to five main factors that can impede strategy execution, curbing results. Could any of these factors be throttling your organization? Ask yourself:

1. Is the strategy sound?

A major risk we face as leaders is that people don’t tell us the truth. We think our strategy is clear and executable, but our people don’t feel clear about it. We think we know what people think, but often, we don’t. Our people may withhold their strategy concerns because they fear jeopardizing money, career opportunities and leaders’ good graces. It can be dangerous to tell the emperor they have no clothes.

What’s the antidote? Ask the tough questions to both direct reports and the people running day-to-day operations:

• What about this strategy may not work?

• What could get in our way?

• What challenges do we need to address to make it possible?

• If we could fix just one thing to make our strategy easier to execute, what would that be?

When you ask, listen. Acknowledge what you heard; invite the truth to the surface. You may feel the urge to challenge concerns or problem-solve immediately. Instead, thank those who share feedback, then reflect, discuss it with an objective sounding board and come back to your people with your reflections.

People will appreciate being asked these questions and listened to, and you may learn the sources of execution challenges or resistance to change.

2. Is the timing right? Are the stars aligning?

Even your strongest vision and strategy could falter if your people aren’t ready to drive change or your customers and the market aren’t receptive to change. When assessing your people’s readiness, ask yourself:

  • What’s the level of risk involved?

  • Are my people equipped and willing to navigate this level of risk?

  • Will it change the way they work day to day?

  • Are we capable of changing in this way?

Find out what supports and systems you need to establish to help people navigate change and grow new skills. Discover what priorities are competing for your people’s attention and then brainstorm ways to lead people toward change without exhausting them with extraneous tasks in the meantime.

When it comes to your customers, make sure to use market research and a litmus test of market readiness. Assess this within your teams, externally with your buyers and with the market as a whole to see if there is an appetite for what you’re proposing.

3. Is the strategy resonant and compelling?

The strategy may be sound and the timing right, but the momentum may be lacking to activate it. A key to driving strategy execution is bringing your team along and winning their hearts and minds. Otherwise, people may say yes with their words but not their actions.

People do incredible things when they are fired up about the opportunity and the approach. Effective strategies should transport people emotionally and practically to places they want to be.

To get collective buy-in for a strategy, leaders must ask:

  • Is our strategy tied to our mission and vision?

  • Is our mission and vision compelling?

  • Is our corporate culture rallied around this mission and vision?

As Peter Drucker says, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." If the strategy isn’t aligned with culture, it won’t work.

4. Is the strategy practical, actionable and measurable?

Let’s assume the strategy is strong and compelling, and your people and the market are ready for it. The strategy could still falter if it hasn’t been translated into actionable goals tied to measurable results to inform the daily priorities of teams and individuals.

To bridge this gap, engage your people actively in both strategy formulation and execution. A strategy remains a collection of words until your team understands how to implement it. Therefore, engage in meaningful dialogue with your teams about the data and thought processes driving the strategy.

Challenges also arise when teams report to multiple leaders who use different success metrics. This can impair a team's ability to focus their energy and effort effectively. To mitigate these challenges, align on a common set of success metrics across the organization.

Leaders should engage people at various levels by asking questions like:

  • What is your part in executing the strategy?

  • What roadblocks do you anticipate?

  • Are your goals realistic given other priorities?

  • What skills and support do you need to achieve these results?

5. Are we incentivizing strategy execution?

How do you ensure that a strong, practical, and compelling strategy aligns with the incentives you’re offering? If the rewards aren’t enticing, people may not build the skills needed to execute the new strategy. Misaligned rewards might even push your people towards undesired results.

Ask yourself:

  • What is our system for managing and rewarding performance? Is it working?

  • Who is the ultimate judge of the results?

  • Are we really rewarding the results we’re after?

  • Do our people value the rewards we’re offering and are the rewards fair and equitable?

Just as there is no one way to win in life, there is no one way to win at strategy execution. Rather, it’s about staying connected to your vision while listening and remaining open to adjustments along the way. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and get curious about team and customer feedback.

When you take on strategy as a learning journey, I am certain that you are bound to succeed.

If these strategy execution challenges resonate with you, let's talk!


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