Simplifying the Strategy Execution process is a challenging – we could even say complex! − task. You need a global vision, time and persistence to execute strategy. But for those who get it done, the rewards are great and plentiful. They include happy managers, reduced costs, and higher company performance.
It’s impossible to give you strict guidelines for simplification, as each situation differs from company to company. However, we can give you some basic pointers to get you started. By the way, we devote an entire chapter to this subject in our book, published by the end of this year.
Quite often, a medium-size or large company has lots of great methodologies, tools and systems that have been piling up over the years − even for decades − and each has been useful (hopefully) at a certain point in time.
Today, the company looks like a house that was constructed as a simple two-bedroom dwelling in the 1970s and since then 27 new rooms and 4 new entrances have been added in 18 different styles.
So, your first action should be to make an inventory of the house and find out which rooms are still in use and which are not. Try to sort into three groups:
- Essentials that you want to continue to use
- The non-essentials but nice-to-haves
- (and last but not least) All the duplicates and outdated materials and methodologies.
After some thorough research across all departments, you can easily end up with three piles large enough to fill a boardroom table.
It helps to literally go into the field and involve managers. This will give you insights into the use of the materials and methodologies, something you can’t figure out just by looking at the document.
Test, lock and block
When you introduce a new Strategy Execution methodology, tool or training session, it helps tremendously to use the following three-step approach:
Step one – Test
Test everything before you implement. Run several pilots. Use waves of implementation.
Here are three reasons to convince you:
- A small change can have a big impact. You can’t predict this at the start, even with the best preparation in the world. Therefore, you should always do a dry-run before you implement.
- It takes time to make your initial idea simple. Even if you get it right, there are always easier ways to do things. You will only see this once you have started and have actually tried to do it.
- It takes time for people to change their behaviour. Nobody becomes a better coach overnight (or even in a few days).
Step two – Lock
Once you find what works, make sure you ‘lock’ it. You need to freeze the chosen solution, and make this frozen solution the one and only. Companies tend to forget this step all too often, and then several different versions of the solution start drifting around the organisation.
When you want to add new elements, fit them into the existing process, document and communicate. (Suggestion: you might want to work with the steps and codes used in product development launches.)
Step three – Block
Once you have what it takes, avoid adding new, unplanned stuff along the way. Many companies that pass the first year successfully try to overdo it the second year … and fail.
The risk tends to be much higher when the initial team is changed along the way.
Define what’s in and what’s not
Depending on who you talk to, Strategy Execution has a broad or narrow scope. As a company, you want to avoid this − so you need to decide what’s in and what’s not. Have one clear vision on what’s part of the Strategy Execution process and what isn’t.
If you are not able to do this, find someone who can. If you don’t find anyone, get to work. In the end, every manager in your organisation should be able to define the Strategy Execution process in your organisation, at least on a conceptual level.
It helps to have a visual framework. Here, the 8 might be useful to you.
Topics that often create confusion are: talent management, budgeting, overall project management, reward and performance coaching.
Watch the matrix (not the movie)
Matrix structures are common practice in many organisations. But they do tend to have a (very) negative impact on the simplicity of processes, including Strategy Execution. Most of the issues arise from mixed messages, timing mismatches, and power plays between teams.
The objective is not for you to start a crusade against matrix structures − they also have many advantages − but to be aware of the pitfalls.
To get a grip on the various matrix dimensions, you often need to focus first on the ‘unwritten rules of the game’. You might find it helpful to put this topic on the agenda at the right level in your organisation. This can be the starting point for defining and clarifying guidelines and managing interactions between divisions, departments, functional lines or teams.