5 levers for a successful implementation

A great strategy does not at all guarantee success in business. In fact, most of them actually fail because firms do not manage to execute them well.

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Certainly, a good strategy is, among other factors, one of the fundamental ingredients for a successful undertaking. After the process of developing a promising strategy, however, firms face the challenge of effectively implementing it. Yet, a large number of executives does not realize that the supreme discipline is not strategy development but its execution. The main challenge is to find a balance between following the previously defined strategy and continuously adapting it to the specific situation of the organization.

While the optimal path might look different for every company, the outcome of the implementation can be positively influenced by adhering to the following five aspects.

  1. The time of isolated decision-making is over: Indeed, top management is eventually responsible for the results. However, good decision-making nowadays is initialized within a team. Successful managers are constantly in contact with their network in order to collect the relevant – and often interdisciplinary – information they use as a basis for their conclusions. Still, in situations critical for business, leaders must assume full responsibility and therefore also have to make certain final decisions on their own.
  2. Strategy execution and project implementation are and will always be a management task: It must be clearly defined how the different units and levels are involved in the implementation process and who has to bear responsibility for what. This requires an explicit and concise formulation of the respective goals and tasks. Always keep in mind that motivated employees can crucially influence your company’s success.
  3. Often, less is more and a clear focus pays off: Not every task is equally important. Prioritize by evaluating how much the subordinate tasks contribute to the superordinate goals. Using relatively simple tools (e.g. the Eisenhower matrix or portfolio analysis) may already help you to keep an overview in daily business. In doing so, available resources can be distributed purposefully and idle capacity can be identified.
  4. KPIs are a speedometer, not a compass: KPIs frequently lead to a stark simplification of the issue and as a result often neglect crucial aspects. Also, the selected measurement values are in many cases only remotely related to the actual company goal. In order to deliver useful data, the selected metrics must be both consistent over time and able to provide a meaningful company-specific prognosis. The most suitable metrics are hence not the same ones for every firm and should go beyond just financial indicators.
  5. Even the best plan must be adapted continuously: Keep being dynamic when implementing your strategy. Even the best plan cannot depict reality. Thus, an ongoing review of the goal accomplishment during the execution phase is required. Intermediate goals are not only milestones that need to be reached but should also be an opportunity to check the overall direction the company is heading to. Constructive questioning of the status quo should be part of the corporate culture and may not be suppressed by the aspiration of quick or even hasty goal attainment.

Our experience shows that these five levers oftentimes are given to little consideration in day-to-day-operations, which significantly contributes to the failure of strategic initiatives. Even though it might be difficult to take a step back in the heat of daily business, it is necessary to slow down from time to time in order to accelerate to full speed later.