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Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Is Executing Strategy So Difficult?

In a post by Brian Lassiter, President of the Minnesota Council for Quality, a state-level Baldrige program, Lassiter poses the age-old question: "Why is executing strategy so difficult – especially during today’s tough economic conditions, when strategy is really so paramount to long-term success?"

He sites a recent study by Minnesota-based Digineer (conducted by Pat Salaski, a management consultant and a 2009 Minnesota Quality Award Evaluator), in which they found: 
  • 69% of the leaders surveyed are NOT confident in their organization’s ability to execute strategy.
  • When responding to the question of what was the number one barrier to effectively executing their strategy, most of the barriers reported by these leaders were INTERNAL issues, not external factors (the top two vote-getters: company culture and past habits. In fact, only two external factors listed in the top 10.
  • These tendencies seem to exist in good times and in bad (and maybe they have for decades or generations, which might explain why 70-90% of strategies are said to fail.
  • All contemporary methodologies for implementing strategy – Balanced Scorecard, Hoshin Planning, and others – really have five common elements:
    • Focus on a few critical strategic goals
    • Identify key prformance indicators that measure progress toward those goals.
    • Assess initiatives against a screen of strategic effect and cost benefit.
    • Execute programs that deliver the benefits.
    • Review progress against Key Performance Indicator targets in real time and adjust course quickly when necessary.
BOTTOMLINE: "In challenging times (and really in ALL times) a key role for leaders is to set and execute strategy – to set a vision for the future and align organizational resources to move (and adjust) toward that vision. The good news is that these internal factors can be addressed by senior leaders. The bad news is that they are the same internal factors that have been identified in multiple other studies on this topic for years."

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