Don’t get in the way of your own strategy execution

Guest blogger Tom Chapman

Your transformation program might have collapsed long before the finishing line, which means the company’s investments – both time and money – have gone to waste. The bad news is obvious, but the slight consolation is that you’re not alone: more than 70 per cent of new initiatives fail.

These failures are so often a result of poor execution, and even more frustratingly, most are preventable. With the flop figure staying relatively still, it seems few companies are learning from their mistakes – they fall at the same hurdles over and over.

It needn’t be the way, though. Below are some of the biggest – and most preventable – reasons programs fail at execution.


Why Programs Fail at Execution


A lack of understanding

Transformation programs come in two main parts: planning and execution. But they’re not as separate as some teams seem to think.

For the execution to be a success, it must follow on smoothly and naturally from the strategy phase; the two should always be intertwined. This means having the same minds applied to both to ensure those tasked with ‘getting things done’, as it’s so often referred to, understand what they’re supposed to be doing.

Having been involved early on, your program team will know the thinking behind every decision, and are less likely to cut corners.

Counterproductive egos

Any great team is made up of people with varying skill sets, and managerial staff – whether leading this project or simply just higher up the ladder in the general business – bring important powers and abilities to the table. All too often, however, these more senior members think it’s beneath them to be involved anywhere past the planning stage.

The program manager has an important role to play in orchestrating the project, and that begins with strategy planning but must also continue through the execution stage – no boss is too big to get their hands dirty.

Cut out the confusion right from the beginning by making responsibilities clear even before any work takes place. The manager must commit to the whole initiative early on.

Unrealistic goals

A strategy is nothing without targets; how will you know if the project has been a success if there’s nothing to aim for? As well as that, you must have had reasons to start a transition in the first place – what is it that you want to achieve?

Although ambition should be encouraged, it’s crucial that you’re realistic when setting your goals. After all, you can achieve a lot with the right approach, but there will always be limits. And these limits are influenced by factors like time, money, team size and capabilities.

Look closely at the resources you have before making any big decisions, and don’t aim too high – you’re only setting the team up for failure and disappointment. It may help to have layered objectives: definite objectives beneath bonus goals you can reach for if things go particularly well.

This way, you can keep expectation at a sensible level without ruling anything out.

Jumping to early conclusions

A transition program can have a huge positive effect on your business, but the rewards are unlikely to show overnight. It takes time for the results to show, so don’t jump to early conclusions.

It’s scary to think about how many successful programs have been ditched early because impatient business leaders expected immediate benefits as soon as the execution begins. So much time and money is wasted because managers want too much too quickly.

Be realistic not only about what you want to achieve, but also about when it’s likely to happen. It might be that nothing really changes for a few weeks, but providing you’ve put everything into the strategy and have been sensible with the execution, the rewards will come.

Just keep in mind from the beginning that determining success is likely to take months rather than days or weeks.

Stay organised for the win

Above are some of the common mistakes you’ll want to avoid, and by keeping them in mind from the start, you’re increasing your chances of success.

Approach the whole project – from planning and strategy to execution and judging results – in an organised fashion, with a predetermined timescale open to everyone. And above all, give the changes you implement a chance to work. Good luck!


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