Good strategy is essential for any organization. So is taking action on that strategy, but successful implementation of strategy must be managed appropriately. One of the dynamics we often observe in organizations is that strategy is not always well cascaded through the organization.
In too many organizations, it’s common to hear broad aspirational statements coming from leaders focused on broad strategic intents. For example, “We want to grow in Asia, and we’re going to win in Asia, and here’s why.” And they explain that they will win in that area or market because they have the biggest footprint, or the best service, or the most affordable product, or some other compelling competitive reason.
However, when you take the time to ask individuals throughout the organization, “What’s your part in executing that strategy?” you frequently don’t get good answers. Almost always, it’s because there was no specific initiative or assignment given to the person, or to the group or function to which they belong, to help drive the execution of the strategic vision. In other words, the organization’s strategy deployment is lacking.
Making strategy actionable
Strategy deployment refers to that aspect of the business planning process that deals with breaking down big strategic objectives and the ideas about how the organization will compete into discrete packets that can be acted upon. Typically, the process involves identifying what happens at each level of the organization and making sure the strategy cascades downward through the organization into actionable items that people and groups in the organization can implement.
One of the things leaders need to be acutely aware of is the need to not only put energy into setting strategy, but also into strategy deployment. Let’s take the aforementioned goal of winning in Asia, for example. Asia is a vast place, so you might say, “If you’re in China this is your assignment, if you’re in India this is your assignment, if you’re in Japan, Korea, or the Philippines this is your assignment.” From there, strategic deployment can continue to cascade inside the sub-regions of these countries or through the functions of the business. For example, within the China organization you might be looking at redefining jobs for two key functions, such as engineering and sales.
If the strategy can cascade down into discrete areas, functions, and business groups as actionable, tangible tasks or goals, then the strategy becomes real to people—and achievable. When it doesn’t cascade that way, the strategy is no more than a hope or platitude, and it never really executes as intended.
Leaders who want to ensure that their strategic planning moves forward as it should in their organization should keep the following points in mind:
- Consider strategy deployment in planning processes. Don’t conclude strategic planning after identifying the high level objectives. Make sure the strategy is cascaded level by level into actionable assignments and activities for functions, groups, and people to execute.
- Engage your entire organization. Begin to engage teams, functions, and business groups throughout the organization in cascading the strategy into executable actions. Strategic planning processes can start at the top of the organizational house, but it is well worth the time and effort to make a concerted effort to involve others in a cascading fashion through the organization to understand and plan the specific actions and assignments to execute strategy.
- Align timing and metrics. If two functions will each take on a part of delivering the strategy, they need to be in sync. For instance, if the sales function starts to introduce a new product without coordinating with engineering as to when the product is going to be ready, it creates a disconnect. Make sure that strategic actions and assignments are linked.
Designing for Results
It’s good to have ambitious, high-level goals and aspirations for your company. However, it’s equally important to have procedures in place to deploy your strategy throughout your organization. Leaders who take the time to make sure strategy deployment happens consistently will be far more likely to see their goals and plans come to fruition.