Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Three-Legged Race

Up until now, the conversations in class and in the readings have suggested the paramount importance of having a distinguishable strategy that takes into consideration a thorough analysis of internal and external factors. Comparable to a road map, an organization’s strategy sheds light on the direction in which it is heading towards. So without it, an organization aimlessly wanders only to get lost.

This week’s reading, Dynamic Strategy Implementation, reveals an equally important topic to consider: implementation. If strategy is a road map, implementation is the proper vehicle that will help you get to that final destination. An organization can invest a lot financially and in human capital in order to pursue the best adoptable strategy, but without an implementation plan that thoughtfully prepares for potential resistance, the coveted strategy is nothing but mere wish. In a results-driven society, the success of the implementation validates (or invalidates) the time spent on strategic development. People want visible results, and strategy alone cannot deliver the desired outcomes. But does this mean that we can simply elevate the implementation process on a pedestal and treat it with higher regard than strategy? Based on the reading’s spotlight on implementation, it’s tempting to think that way. But in reality, strategy and implementation are best described as partners in a three-legged race—both needing concerted coordination as one unit in an effort to win.

The tight-knit coordination between strategy and implementation can be compared to examples outside of the traditional business arena. One perfect example that comes to mind is campaign politics. Each team maps out a strategy that they believe will help obtain the most electoral votes in swing states. Then they implement this strategy by making key decisions that reflect the strategy of choice. These decisions include a myriad of things like deciding to buy media ads to air in certain counties, targeting certain demographic groups, creating candidate talking points that will appeal to the undecided votes, organizing a grassroots campaign that reaches voters door-to-door, and more.

The Obama Campaign of 2008 is a prime example. With masterminds like David Axelrod and Joel Benenson charting the strategy for Obama’s campaign, several arguments made by authors of Dynamic Strategy Implementation are seen in Obama’s campaign implementation. Constant checking between strategic goals and implementing decisions are necessary to ensure a favorable outcome. Successful implementation occurs when the overall strategy is communicated clearly with all campaign staff and the staff are prepared to adapt it accordingly in light of opponent attacks.  At the end of the campaign, there are clear winners and losers based on the sustaining implementation of the respective strategies. 

Although this is just one example, leaders of any organization should be mindful about the coordinated relationship between both strategy and implementation. Huge errors occur when organizational leaders forget to sync the two. Don’t forget that it’s a three-legged race; you can’t win alone. 

Sources:

Dynamic Strategy Implementation: Delivering on your strategic ambitions, Deloitte University Press

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