buildingsWhen strategies fail to deliver the expected results, what portion of the failure is due to failed strategy and what part is due to failed execution of the strategy?

Many organizations invest significant effort in developing the business strategy.  Annual budgetary and performance reviews support highly considered strategic mission and vision statements for the firm. Three-year and five-year forecasts reflect the company’s markets, access to resources, and ability to execute.  Strategy statements are even translated to marketing slogans to help build the brand and reputation of the firm.

Yet, having a good strategic planning process does not necessarily yield effective results. In a rush to meet strategic objectives, old projects may be re-packaged and dressed up to be sold under the latest strategy.

Strategies that try to duplicate another company’s success will fail without good execution planning.  Consider, for instance, the widely-envied quality management processes at Toyota. Many other automobile manufacturers have mimicked Toyota’s strategic intent, yet few have successfully implemented an equivalent outcome. Execution of the quality strategy is dependent upon many intangible elements, like organizational culture, communication, resource planning, and cross-functional integration.

Developing a flexible, ongoing execution plan for implementing the business strategy is the foundation for an organization to succeed. Execution plans transform the strategy into actions: creating cross-departmental integration, focusing on intangible culture change management, and aligning work to meet business goals. An effective execution plan will capture organizational learning, enhancing team members’ ability to query the problems and identify solutions to make the strategic thrust “real”.

Business strategy is the foundation for success. Having a road map but no plan to execute will lead to sub par performance.