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Strategy execution through people

Morris Chang, the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, once said, “Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.”

In recent years and following the many disruptive changes in the business landscape, supply chain, new technologies, climate change and extreme weather events, organizations have been facing many challenges. In the gulf region, these challenges have an additional dimension, as organizations rely on a considerable percentage of expat employees. High turnover in employees jeopardizes the constant access to competent resources, with frequent changes in leadership and organizations changing their strategic direction as the vision of countries evolves. All these putting constraints on strategy execution, assuming that there is a clear strategy in place to start with.

So, the main questions remain: how to enable effective strategy execution?

Having worked on several transformation projects here are some challenges to reflect on:

1)The focus on short-term strategies


Lately, there has been a tendency within the organization to prioritize short-term strategies over long-term planning, to cope with the emerging trends and challenges. Organizations have been observed to engage in short-term planning cycles, typically lasting 2-3 cycles, without a clear understanding or articulation of its long-term objectives. In other words, the organization seems to be more focused on immediate goals and outcomes, possibly at the expense of considering its broader, future-oriented goals and aspirations. This lack of clarity regarding long-term objectives may hinder the organization's ability to establish a cohesive vision and direction needed for engagement and sustained success over time.

The organization should balance short-term needs with long-term objectives through a comprehensive strategic planning process. This involves prioritizing a clear vision and concrete long-term goals, while fostering a culture that values proactive planning for future challenges. Aligning short-term actions with long-term aspirations sustains success over time while addressing emerging trends effectively.


2) Silos and lack of alignment

"Silo mentality" describes when organizational departments or teams work independently, causing communication gaps, resource duplication, and missed innovation opportunities. Similarly, "lack of alignment with strategic goals" occurs when different parts of the organization pursue initiatives that don't align with overall objectives, hindering progress and goal achievement. Together, silos and lack of alignment can create barriers to effective communication, collaboration, and execution of the organization's strategy. Breaking down silos and ensuring alignment with strategic goals are critical for fostering a cohesive and high-performing organization.

Breaking silos necessitates fostering collaboration, improving communication, and promoting shared purpose within the organization. This involves:

(i) Encouraging cross-functional collaboration through projects and initiatives that bring together teams from different departments, while also ensuring transparency in sharing information and aligning individual and team goals with broader strategic objectives.

(ii) Establishing clear communication channels, facilitating interdepartmental relationships further enhance collaboration and break down silos.

(ii) Rewarding collaborative behavior, leading by example, addressing structural barriers, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement are essential in sustaining efforts to eliminate silos and promote a cohesive organizational environment


3) Lack of engagement, motivation and proactiveness


Consider for a moment the transformative power of engagement. When employees feel connected to the vision and purpose of their organization, they become invested stakeholders, eager to lend their expertise and insights. This sense of ownership transforms routine tasks into meaningful contributions, fueling momentum and progress.

Moreover, motivation serves as the driving force behind sustained effort and resilience in the face of challenges. It's the spark that ignites innovation and fuels perseverance when the road ahead seems daunting.

By tapping into intrinsic motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose, organizations can inspire their teams to reach new heights of performance and creativity. By fostering a culture of openness, where ideas are welcomed, and experimentation is encouraged, leaders lay the groundwork for meaningful transformation.

In conclusion, while strategic documents provide structure, it's the people within an organization who breathe life into these plans, necessitating a harmonious fusion of both effective strategy execution and long-term success.

4) Change fatigue

Fostering a culture of resilience and cultivating change management strategies mitigate the adverse impacts of change fatigue on strategy execution. The persistent onslaught of changes, whether structural, procedural, or cultural, can overwhelm employees, leading to decreased morale, productivity, and ultimately, hindered strategy execution. Employees experiencing change fatigue may become resistant to new initiatives or less engaged in their work, impeding the organization's ability to implement strategic priorities effectively.

To mitigate the adverse effects of change fatigue on strategy execution, organizations must prioritize fostering a culture of resilience and implementing effective change management strategies and robust practices to ensure successful strategy execution.

5) Inadequate competencies

Strategic plans often fail to incorporate the necessary roadmap for developing the skills, knowledge, and processes needed to implement critical changes effectively. Without building these capabilities, organizations struggle to achieve desired results.

There are two common pitfalls in strategic planning:

  • Assuming that logical strategies will naturally translate into action without explicitly developing capabilities,

  • Overly prescriptive approaches don't account for the need for experimentation and adaptation.

Overcoming these challenges requires integrating capability development into strategic execution, linking each strategic priority to the necessary capabilities and framing accountability around both results and capability development.


6) New leaders with disruptive mindset disrupting equilibrium in organizations creating more chaos than structure

As a leader, optimizing your team's talents and time is key to fostering their growth and expertise. Time is required for new leaders to understand the organization and its people, ensuring that the new plans they bring in don’t disrupt things that are already working effectively. Thus, they should focus on filling gaps and making improvements rather than disturbing the entire equilibrium. Additionally, consider aligning their skills and capacity with critical business domains and strategies.

Remember building people capabilities for effective strategy execution is crucial. Here are some actionable steps for organizations to thrive in today's dynamic landscape:

  • Developing Learn To Learn capabilities enabling new thinking, innovative ideas and quicker abilities adapt to change.

  • Building aligned and empowered teams.

  • Using new and creative methodologies to inculcate new scientific thinking and practices, changing personal behaviors, and gearing your teams towards outstanding performance.

Nancy Nouaimeh

Culture Transformation and Organizational Excellence Expert


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