HBR – Bridging the Strategy-Execution Gap

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

Commit to an identity.  An organization must commit to an identity through a shared understanding of its value proposition and distinctive capabilities. In short, the organization must commit to focus on what it is good at and then go after it.

  • Spend more time defining strategy (i.e., translating a high-level vision into clear actionable goals).
  • Spend more time aligning the organization around that strategy through frequent internal communications and driving a consistent message downward into the organization.

Translate strategy into everyday processes and capabilities. Our analysis of how senior teams spend their time shows that for this dimension:

  • High-performing teams spend over 25% more time focusing the enterprise than their lower-performing peers. That time is spent establishing financial and operational metrics, aligning goals with overarching strategy, allocating resources, and reviewing key metrics.
  • High-performing teams spend 14% more time checking their progress against strategic goals by reviewing key metrics and shifting resources accordingly.

Concentrate on the unique cultural factors that fuel success. Implicit in this assumption is resisting the temptation to drive traditional change programs based on addressing gaps or weaknesses. This is an area where the data present a more complex picture.

  • High-performing teams spend 28% more time engaging the organization in ongoing dialogue about cultural enablers and barriers to execution. This includes forums for employees to voice concerns via surveys (e.g., employee engagement) and actual dialogue.
  • Those same teams invest almost one-third more time in optimizing talent capabilities by reviewing development plans, ensuring that succession plans are in place, and evaluating compensation plans to be competitive.

Shape the future. High-performing teams successfully shape the future, rather than always being in a reactive mode in the present. How do they do it?

  • They spend 25.3% more time influencing high-level stakeholders by identifying their needs and managing their expectations.
  • Unsurprisingly, though easier said than done, the high-performing teams spend 13.2% more time planning for the future by setting direction, creating a vision, and defining their strategy.
  • Finally, they shape the future by responding to change in the present (20.7% more effectively than lower-performing teams), positioning the enterprise for future success. This is consistent with much of the existing literature around the importance of agility in high-performing teams.

HBR Nathan Wiita Orla Leonard NOVEMBER 23, 2017