Leadership Strategy

HBR Article – 5 Ways to Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap

Reading this article from the Harvard Business Review, I appreciated the insight into the management practices of successful companies that contradict conventional wisdom. The following five practices helped Ikea, Zara and Starbucks get to where they are today.

  1. Committing to an identity
  2. Ditching the assumption that adopt best practices is an established path to success and translating the strategic into the everyday
  3. Putting their culture to work
  4. Cutting costs to grow stronger
  5. Shaping their future by creating the change that they want to see

However, the part of the article that resonated the most with me was the following two paragraphs:

“Operating as these companies do takes a lot of confidence. That’s why the quality and caliber of top leadership is so important. The companies’ executives eschew conventional wisdom, not for the sake of nonconformity in itself, but because they are focused on the fundamental questions about a company’s strategy, such as: Who do we want to be? What is our chosen value proposition? And they’re just as focused on fundamental questions of execution: What can we do amazingly well that no one else can? What other capabilities do we need to develop? How will we blueprint, build, and scale those capabilities — and put them to use?”

“They consider all these questions at the same time, in the same conversations with the same teams, so that strategy and execution are closely integrated in every decision. They do all this boldly, with the confidence and acumen that comes from having earned the right to win, the ability to engage in a chosen market with capabilities that consistently outmatch competitors.”

Integrating strategy into every decision day-to-day is a tall order, and for a leader to do so effectively, they need to have a clear picture, vision and understanding of the organization’s current and desired identity, an understanding of what the organizations short and long term goals are, and then putting their teams to work to achieve the organizational goals and shaping the organization’s future by creating the change that they want to see.

The article also reminded me of the book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, and his concepts of the Level 4 – Effective Leader – someone who “catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, simulating higher performance standards” and Level 5 – Executive – someone who ‘builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will” because those leadership characteristics are needed to be able to following the suggested practices and translate strategy into successful execution.

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