Strategy versus Execution: The Problem of Making it Happen
By Al McClain
A new book, Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change by Wharton professor Lawrence Hrebiniak, focuses on the gap between developing business strategies
and their implementation.
He cites as one obstacle to execution the fact that in many large corporations too many people are involved in the process, along with multiple layers of management. Another
identified problem is that top execs often come up with strategy, but leave execution to underlings. He argues that key execs have to be more involved in execution, so that managers
take the process more seriously, and see that it’s not exclusively a lower level responsibility.
According to a survey in the book, the number one challenge managers face is managing change, or overcoming internal resistance to change. Hrebiniak says the key is planning
for change, not trying to do everything at once, and setting priorities. Another key is moving to sequential change – having more manageable pieces in the strategy. “Speed kills.
The biggest error is we do too many things at once.”
Moderator’s Comment: Why is there a wide gap between the ideas developed by businesses, and those that are actually well executed?
We all know it’s easier to come up with great ideas than it is to make them happen. How many brilliant ideas have we each thought of in our lifetimes that
never happened? The current orientation of society and business towards the short-term makes it easy to think only of what needs doing this day, week, or quarter. We might all
deliver better results if we agreed in our respective businesses that any idea accepted by the company must be accompanied by an integrated plan that must be executed in full
until the idea either succeeds or dies, with incentives and penalties for thinkers and implementers along the way, and checkpoints that call for involvement and commitment by
top execs at regular intervals. –
Al McClain – Moderator