Banker: Retail and Affluent
According to the Strategic Thinking Institute, the word “strategy” sprang from the need for people to defeat their enemies. The first treatises that discuss strategy are from the Chinese during the period 400 – 200 BC. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, written in 400 BC, received critical acclaim as the best work on military strategy that continued for centuries by those who have followed it. Strategy is about how a war is going to be fought; the tactics and the weapons to be commissioned in an attempt to subdue the enemy.
Similarly, with organisations, it is a matter of survival. However, most organisations still don’t realise that having a well-executed and robust strategy can safeguard the very existence of the organisation for its stakeholders. Some businesses are ‘stuck-in-the middle’ and have no convincing strategy to guide their direction and things happen either by luck or by accident. A great strategy helps a business to navigate and guides its direction. Having the right ingredients to ensure that all the necessary tactics are executed precisely as planned in support of the overarching strategy is a definite win, or at least a departure from doing business in a laissez-faire manner.
The question remains, however, why some strategies fail and never take off or come to fruition? There is overwhelming evidence that between the ideal of strategic alignment and the reality of implementation lies many difficulties. In an article titled The Silent Killers of Strategy Implementation and Learnin, authors Michael Beer and Russell A. Eisenstat argue that to be competitive, companies must develop a good strategy and then appropriately realign structure, systems, leadership behaviour, human resource policies, culture, values and management processes. The following are the infamous silent killers of strategy and its execution.
- Unclear Strategic Direction
Strategy, as we have defined it, is the long term direction of a firm and therefore execution of it is not an event but an intensive process that needs to be managed closely. Yardsticks need to be identified, communicated and be clear to all the stakeholders. It needs to be explicit what needs to be achieved and by when. Leaders in a given organisation can come up with pit stops to allow everyone involved to pause, take stock and analyse how the journey has been so far. Successfully executed tactics of the strategy tasks need to be known and celebrated.
Similarly, where there has not been much success, this pit stop should offer an opportunity to reflect, re-align and re-focus on doing things differently. The leadership teams need to be in full control and provide guidance, training and relevant tools of execution throughout the journey. Direction is very important and teams need to be reminded of the bigger picture so that there is undivided focus. Without direction, people are bound to get lost or time will just run out.
- Unaligned Leadership
In any organisation, leadership is very critical to always provide direction, enable resources and ensure that all the tools needed by the team are provided for. The C-Level executives also have to be in check at all times as teams are looking up to them and are naturally role models to many. There is absolute doom if the leadership itself is not aligned to the overall strategy. In any team, the biggest dream killer is lack of cohesion and congruence. Imagine if the leadership team is operating within silos and are like a group of fiefdoms that refuse to cooperate effectively for fear that they will lose power! That shall be the death of the strategy or even the organisation itself ultimately.
- Unaligned Talent
The right skills and talent are extremely crucial. As organisations embark on a new journey, the talent bench needs to be interrogated to establish if the right skills are available to keep up with new demands. Some people will need to be upskilled to execute specific tasks. Talent also includes senior managers who must be skilled in assisting lower level managers and their respective teams in developing skills through newly created opportunities to lead change through coaching and training. This is one of the many reasons why in today’s world one can never get comfortable. Learning should be a constant adventure.
- Poor Rewards and Recognition
Just paying employees a salary for the work they do has proven to be not enough in retaining innovators and entrepreneurs in any business. Have a look at organisations that reward employees for being innovative market leaders. A new strategy always calls for a change in thinking and doing things. So a level playing field ought to be created and employees rewarded for their new ideas and new innovative ways of doing things.
- Poor Vertical and Horizontal Communication
With communication blackouts, how does one get to know strategy if milestones are achieved or not? Even if a department has executed what needs to be done, one needs to know how the overall picture looks like. Communication from the top and between teams is crucial. If the leaders are voiceless on the subject of strategy and progress made, the team members are bound to assume that everything is moving accordingly. Perhaps the notion that strategy is for the senior management is cultivated by lack of communication. “If they are not telling us anything then it means it should be our concern.” Communication gaps need to be avoided. If anything, over-communication should rather happen. Infact, it keeps the excitement on.
- Poor coordination across businesses units and functions
A corporate or business strategy is never executed by one department and a successful strategy requires all hands on deck and teams working together for a common goal. If activities are not coordinated, strategic deliverables will get frustrated. Departments are part of the value chain and each performs its specific task in support of the bigger dream. Therefore, working together is a must.
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