Jumping The ‘Strategy-To-Execution Gap’?

Executive Briefing | by | January 12, 2018


Monica E. Oss
Monica E. Oss

In markets experiencing rapid change or significant disruption, nothing changes more than strategy (see Strategic Planning – Just As Critical As Ever). But the “five-year plan” of my early career has been replaced by annual planning tied to the budget cycle, with a disciplined quarterly “recalibration.” That recalibration is based on metrics-based tracking of the trends in organizational competitive advantage and sustainability.

As I’ve written about before, strategy without effective implementation is pointless (see Deliberate Incrementalism – The Key To Good Strategy Implementation and ‘Hierarchy Of Purpose’ For Strategy Success). I’m reminded of the Peter Drucker adage, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” To make strategy “happen”, I think there are a few key operational essentials—tying the strategy to budgets, well-developed strategy implementation plans, accountability for strategy implementation, and real-time measurement of performance that is tied to each strategy component.

But strategies that stretch organizations in new directions also have a big cultural component (à la the adage also attributed to Peter Drucker, “culture will eat strategy for breakfast”). I thought the recent piece in The Harvard Business Review, 5 Ways to Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap, had great advice for executive teams of health and human service organizations that see big strategy shifts ahead.

Their first two recommendations have to do with the strategy itself. First, shape the future. In developing strategy in a disruptive market, anticipating consumers’ future needs and preferences—and your organization’s offering in that context—is key. Second, commit to an identity. It’s all about focus on the value proposition and competitive advantages of your organization’s services. In times of change, organizational identity, noble purpose, mission, and vision serve as the “true north” for employees in making changes.

A third key is to translate strategy into everyday processes and capabilities—to not be limited by industry best practices and benchmarking with current competitors. This is a great observation for a health and human service field that is seeing fundamental changes in service delivery models. And, fourth, they recommend concentrate on the unique cultural factors that fuel success. This is a strengths-based approach to strategy implementation—leveraging the elements of current organizational structural works, identifying future leaders of new strategy, and building on core service strengths.

Finally, their last piece of advice is one that is the most difficult for many health and human service organizations—cut costs to grow stronger. This is the difficult budget and portfolio management issue. For many organizations with limited access to capital, coming up with the funds to invest in future growth demands reducing investments in other areas. It also involves “pruning” the service line portfolio, particularly of programs with negative margins that are not mission-central or critical to future strategy.

Managing strategy and strategy implementation for continued competitive success and organizational sustainability is the primary role of leadership teams—and their primary challenge. It’s a challenge that reminds me of a statement by Jack Welch, “You’ve got to eat while you dream. You’ve got to deliver on short-range commitments, while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it. The success of doing both. Walking and chewing gum if you will.”

As you look ahead in 2018, we’ll keep you up-to-date on best practices in organizational strategy development and implementation. For more on strategy, be sure to add these sessions to your schedule:

  1. “How To Develop A New Service Line: An OPEN MINDS Seminar On Building A Diversification Strategy & Conducting A Feasibility Analysis”, on June 7 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, featuring Joseph P. Naughton-Travers, EdM, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS.
  2. “How To Develop A Successful Marketing Plan: The OPEN MINDS Seminar On Marketing Strategy”, on August 14 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute, featuring Kristi Hamilton, MBA, CPPM, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS.
  3. How to Develop a Strategic Plan: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices in Strategy, Portfolio Management, & Scenario-Based Planning”, on September at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat, featuring Joseph P. Naughton-Travers, EdM, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS.

And for even more, join me on June 6 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute for my session, Incorporating Innovation Into Everyday Operations: A New Strategy For Sustainability.”


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