“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

To make a case for organizational effectiveness, you have to understand where it fits into strategy. Most organizations have a strategy, but then immediately want to go into executing it – the problem they invariably run into is that this approach rarely works out.

Research shows that, incredibly, organizations “typically realize only 60% of their strategies’ potential value” (HBR). Huge amounts of projected value go straight down the drain.

The gulf between strategy and execution

The reality is, you can’t simply go from strategy to execution and expect total alignment to occur automatically. You need to pause between the two, and take into account both the practical and the human factors that influence the success of any initiative.

You have to ask yourself what needs to happen before you can go from what you are to what you envision. Do you have the technology, the capabilities, the talent, the manpower? Is your organization receptive to change? Is your communication network sufficient to disseminate your new ways of working, or will you leave people stuck in the dark?

Simply speaking, strategy alignment is about engaging and enabling the people who work for your organization. In addition, they need to be supported continuously, throughout the strategy execution process – not just at the beginning. Your project managers need to be constantly embedding your new ways of working, so that momentum is maintained, new learnings are taken on board, and the culture is consistently communicated.

How do we execute a strategy more effectively?

It sounds simple, but as a consultant, your first priority is to truly understand the company’s strategy. Do they have one already? What are they trying to achieve? What is their target operation model?

Then the adaptability of the organization must be considered. If resistance to change is high, what are the reasons, and can they be addressed? Assess the culture – even if a company has a strong hierarchical structure and official communication channels, we often find that things really get done via the informal networks. Understanding how that works is vital to understanding how strategy changes will be managed in reality, rather than in theory.

The second ‘human’ challenge is that, even if your entire employee base is fully committed to your transformation, the capabilities may not yet exist. For example, you may decide to go from a product-based model to a service-based model, but if you don’t realize that this will entail wildly different selling techniques, you may be disappointed when your salespeople need support to transition between the two.

It's about processes as well as people

To truly up your game, your technology, operational structures, and digital capabilities all need to be addressed. And even then, the decision to invest in software, or streamline supply chains, is not the end of the road – you have to make sure that your systems and people can cope with the upgrade. For instance, you may announce your intention to adopt ERP software, only to find during your implementation phase that you don’t have the infrastructure to support it, or that your employees haven’t had the specific SAP training they need.

In short, analyze your people, processes, and technologies before any major shift to assess whether your organization has the ability to deliver it.

Learn as you go

As mentioned above, embedding your new processes and culture at every step of the way is vital to the successful execution of any strategy. However, this does not mean that you must stick rigidly to the original plan and never waver, for fear of appearing indecisive.

To paraphrase the old saying, the 'best laid plans’ - and the best laid strategies - will always go awry. There will be innumerable difficulties, complications and unexpected bumps in the road that you may need to swerve around. Being adaptable is part of being successful, and this extends to the critique of your strategy as well.

Ask yourself ‘how are we doing?’

Every good leader has an up-to-date grasp of what’s actually happening in their company. Performance management really boils down to system analytics. What is your lead churn rate? Are your business development people really using their time effectively? And, of course, the holy grail: what is your true ROI?

When you’re transitioning, analytics becomes an even more important tool. By telling you whether your people are adopting new behaviours and achieving overall business objectives, analytics gives you a vital gift: the ability to decide whether you need to focus on fixing problems, or simply on improving processes that are already working.

The gap exists – don’t fall into it

In conclusion, there are many ways organizations might lose the value they expected to gain from their new strategy. The nuances and subtleties of the process can be manifold, but with adequate preparation, and execution that is tempered by discernment and logic, it is possible to build bridges over that gap to guide your organization to its new state of being.

Becky Vinton

Written by Becky Vinton

Becky is a Transformation & Organizational Effectiveness Influencer at Aspirant, and works tenaciously with clients to overcome their most vexing challenges. With expertise in organizational effectiveness, capability analysis and alignment, and business-and-functional transformation, she helps organizations find innovative and pragmatic solutions that enable them to make better decisions and realize a quantifiable difference. Always challenging herself to see things differently, Becky’s passion is solving the puzzle of an organization and putting all the pieces together to achieve extraordinary outcomes.