Five strategy execution myths exposed | London Business School
examines the myths
and realities of
Five strategy execution
Five strategy execution myths exposed
The planning and doing chasm
What is the most difficult challenge
your company faces in executing its strategy?
It is surprising how little time and attention is devoted
to execution, despite it being an enduring challenge in
so many organisations. A huge gap persists between
the time we devote to developing strategy and the time
we devote to executing it.
There is a commonly held myth
that the challenge of execution
is about aligning activities and
objectives up and down the
company hierarchy, through
aspects like KPIs and nested
Execution is all about
Execution is not all
Within complex organisations,
coordination of activities across
multiple functions, departments and
units is critical to get things done.
Part of the issue? We don’t have
enough tools when considering
how to translate commitments
made across the organisation into
deliverable results for customers.
Execution is just implementing a plan
Facing this coordination challenge, many
organisations try to script coordination
by describing in painful detail who needs
to do what and by when through detailed
When executing strategy in the real
world, however, things change all
Execution is more than implementing a plan
Adjusting to local circumstances as
markets shift is the very essence of
executing strategy in volatile markets.
Effective execution depends on leaders
ensuring that the strategy, intent, and
non-negotiables of executing are clear.
To execute, managers throughout the
organisation should know what lies
within the bounds of strategy and what
lies outside of it.
Execution is one size fits all
Strategy execution is about
simultaneously doing three
things at once – aligning
activities and resources with
strategy, coordinating across
functions, business units and
geographies, and adapting to local
circumstances and changes. But
organisations will struggle to find
the perfect balance across these
three, often competing, dimensions.
Execution is not
one size fits all
While balance is difficult, it is
also unnecessary. It is key that
companies find their fit, or their
unique execution approach, and
then adapt their approach to this.
Strategy and execution
are distinct from each other
When organisations fail to achieve their
desired results, executives often write
off the failure to a great strategy brought
down by poor execution. But failure to
execute is always partly, if not wholly,
due to strategy itself.
Strategy and execution are interdependent
Thinking we can separate strategy
from execution is one of the biggest
myths of execution.
Strategy is about choices – about
how a company creates and sustains
economic value. A failure to execute
often starts with failure to make those
tough choices, and even more so
failing to communicate them.
You need the CEO
if you want to execute
Too often, leaders and managers
express the desire for their CEO
to get more involved, to really
understand what the issues
are. But it is these managers –
distributed leaders – who are the
real heroes of execution.
You need empowered leaders
if you want to execute
In complex organisations, the
leaders closest to strategic
choices are in the best place
to make tough calls.
Execution lives and dies with
this group, defined as the
set of managers and leaders
distributed throughout the
organisation who are critical
to executing strategy.
Rebecca Homkes, Teaching Fellow
at London Business School.
The full blog post was published
on London Business School Review online.
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