Monday, April 22, 2013

A mediocre strategy well executed is better than a great strategy poorly executed

In life, sometimes we set up grand goals and plans, but often leave out on what steps to take in order to get there. It begins as something to achieve, but then it becomes ‘dream’ and continues to be just a ‘dream.’
Same thing happens in companies. They would hire expensive consulting agents, spend several months, sometimes a year, invest great amount of effort and time to develop fancy strategic planning. They receive final recommendations in well designed and organized booklets or manuals, and then place them in decent spot in the bookshelf, never reviewing or planning to implement. Strategy continues to be just a strategy.

It happens sometimes because there exists discrepancy between the strategy developed by outside consultants and the capability to execute the strategy inside the firm.
At the performing arts center I worked, we once hired a outside research firm to develop programming strategic plans. The firm’s case studies were excellent, example portfolios were attractive, and scheduling was feasible enough. However, the recommendation required staff members stay in their positions longer, follow their initiatives, and get mature with the tasks cultivating longer-term external relationship. The center’s internal policy, a periodic rotation in positions conflicted with the requirement, and change in people made the implementation just fizzle out.
In the article The Execution Trap by Roger L. Martin, he points out that it occurs often especially consulting firms are involved in strategy development. It says “firms can in effect say, it won’t be our strategy advice that will let you down but your implementation of that strategy. To help you get around that problem, we suggest that we do some change management work for you as well.”
It is a company’s role and responsibility to diagnose its capability to execute the strategy, and take appropriate process and adjustments to make it happen.

It happens sometimes because, as it says in the article The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution, information does not flow in a way it is supposed to.
The best success story on strategy execution I heard is Kia Motor’s identity renewal project. Kia has developed new brand strategy, which was in short the concept of ‘Design.’ In order to successfully apply the new identity, the company prioritized educating all the members of the company, regardless of hierarchical position or department. Not only Kia actively incorporated concept of 'Design' in advertisements and other marketing activities, it held internal ‘brand sharing’ conferences and presentations for several times, it also created internal stationary emphasizing the new concept, encouraged each department to come up with their own strategies and tactics in relation to the new identity.
Kia recognized the importance of sharing, the information flow inside the organization, and took strategical process to implement it. From top to the very bottom of an organization, acknowledging what change the company plans to bring in and sharing the idea is critical. 

They say "Strategies most often fail because they aren’t well executed," or "A mediocre strategy well executed is better than a great strategy poorly executed." It is worth to reexamine that what makes great success is how to take strategical steps to the strategy drown, not drawing strategy itself. 

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