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Posted: June 08, 2011

How’s the yin and yang of your business?

Improving business performance through strategy-execution alignment

Bob Hills

Strategy and execution are the yin and yang of business. Recall that in Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are complementary opposites that create a greater common goal. Strategy is simply "doing the right things" and execution is "doing things right." The greater common goal is "doing the right things right" which, in business, will yield higher financial, customer, operational and employee benefits.

"Doing the right things right" requires your business's strategy and execution to be closely aligned. The best way to achieve this alignment is by implementing a well thought-out, consistent methodology (process) that encompasses strategy formulation, operational planning, execution management and business review.

While some businesses may claim to utilize these elements in their business, many lack the discipline, consistency and alignment necessary to succeed in executing their strategy. Let's take a closer look.

ENABLING EXECUTION WITH A WELL DEFINED STRATEGY

Consider strategy formulation in terms of enabling execution. Strategic objectives are the culmination of thought developed in other strategy-formulation elements including mission, vision and competitive differentiators. Strategic objectives are a statement of the business's top ambitions and aspirations. Most critical to execution, there should only be a few strategic objectives - you should be able to count them on one hand. Each objective should be declared in a well-focused statement that provides clarity and avoids uncertainty in communicating the business direction. Where appropriate, strategic objectives should be augmented with a list of existing projects and programs that need to be discontinued - either stopped or phased out - that are no longer core to the business strategy.

FACILITATING EXECUTION THROUGH OPERATIONAL PLANNING

Operational planning is paramount to effective execution. Many business leaders assume this detailed planning exists when in fact it may be altogether absent. Operational planning translates strategic objectives into business-level goals and then cascades those goals throughout the organization. For each strategic objective, business-level goals consisting of measures and targets need to be identified. In turn, these goals need to be dissected to align with organizational responsibilities and further rolled-down into those respective organizations. For the purpose of ensuring strategy-aligned execution, goals should be disseminated down to first-line managers - the department level - as part of operational planning.

BUILDING AN EXECUTION RHYTHM

The crux of improving execution management is by establishing an execution rhythm. Many businesses today do not have a common way of getting things done. Different individuals and teams within the same business go about their work in entirely different ways and on entirely different schedules. This creates roadblocks with communications and collaboration and precipitates other forms of dysfunction. Many successful businesses implement and promote a common way for their organization to get things done with the use of a consistent and disciplined process. This "execution rhythm" is known and understood by the organization as the way the business operates.

Execution rhythm defines a regular cycle of setting individual objectives and measuring individual results based on the goals established in the operational plan. This ensures that all individuals understand and are working towards the goals of the organization. It also presents business leaders with visibility into progress towards its greater goals and, ultimately, the business's strategic objectives. Every business is different, so the details of execution rhythm will vary from business-to-business. What is common is that the process is disciplined and consistent across the entire organizations.

REVIEWING PERFORMANCE

Contemplative business review is also a critical element in establishing strategy-execution alignment. Business review takes time out to review individual performance and overall company performance in order to continuously develop the organization and the business. The use of formal reviews contributes directly to strategy development, operational planning and execution management as well as individual development.
Implementing a strategy-execution methodology is a holistic approach to attain better business results.

With a focus on execution excellence, this type of methodology poses a system to directly align the work of every individual in the organization with the strategic objectives of the business. Whether your business is succeeding or failing-to-succeed, the benefits of adopting a strategy-execution alignment methodology will include:

• Achieving business goals more reliably and more quickly
• Developing agility to deal with changing customer needs, market dynamics and economic uncertainties
• Increasing operating margins by reducing nonessential activities
• Increasing employee-job satisfaction producing higher quality work, higher productivity, and higher morale
• and more.

Does your business have its Yin and Yang working toward the greater common good? If not, consider adopting a more disciplined methodology to align your business strategy and execution.
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Bob Hills considers himself a ‘recovering high-tech executive'. He spent 30 years as an executive in global, high-tech firms where he was instrumental in growing concepts and young product lines into mature businesses. After ‘executive rehab', Bob founded Classic Business Logic - a firm dedicated to educating and coaching businesses on the practices and benefits of execution management or, as he prefers to call it, strategy-execution alignment. Bob primarily works with businesses that are struggling to execute their strategies or are interested in scaling their business operations to the next level. For more information visit wwwclassicbusinesslogic.com or contact Bob directly at bhills@classicbusinesslogic.com or by calling 970-389-3634.

 

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