Why do programs collapse? A missing link

Frequently, the critical link between strategy and execution is missing. Undue prominence is given to strategy but not nearly enough to execution which is usually an afterthought; boring back-room, dirty work.

Strategy presentations are routinely topped off with a few superficial charts on execution. Eye-catching bar charts are not execution plans.

A big reason for program collapse is the missing link between strategy and execution. Lots of prominence is given to strategy – but not nearly enough to execution. Execution is usually an afterthought; boring, back-room, dirty work.

Strategy planning is normally carried out by a handful of people over a short period – sometimes just a few weeks. By contrast, execution of the strategy is played out over a much longer period, usually involving hundreds of people. But countless strategies are designed without taking into account the organisation’s ability to execute them. This is one of the first signs that a program might collapse.

Classically, strategy is too abstract and not deep enough to be understood by the people who have to implement it. People must understand the specifics; they shouldn’t have to read between the lines.

There’s a big difference between regular and complex programs. Many functions have got to grips with the regular, incremental program types, but still make a complete mess of complex, business-critical ones.

Programs are ‘business-critical’ because they’re cutting-edge; typically, the future of the business depends on them. They’re awkward and expensive, demanding complex, interactions between internal functions and major suppliers – with loads of opportunities to drop the baton.


Read what experienced CEOs say about transformation program execution in our Special Report “Getting with the Program”.