Most companies have solid strategies that quickly become undermined by insufficient implementation and poor productivity. Here’s how to fix the strategy-execution disconnect.
According to HBR, 95% of employees are unaware of, or do not understand their company’s strategy. It gets worse: strategic planning, process execution and analytics that track progress are largely disconnected from each other. Any company concerned with moving faster, increasing productivity, and avoiding disruption should be greatly concerned with these alarming facts.
In their book Profit from the Core, Zook & Allen report that seven out of eight companies in a global sample of 1,854 large corporations failed to achieve 5+% growth. Yet 90% of the companies in the study had developed detailed strategic plans with much higher targets. When 90% of companies fail to successfully execute their strategies, it’s a sign that something residing within the DNA of most organizations is fundamentally flawed.
Root causes of the strategy-execution disconnect
Having run the Internet of Things (IoT) business at SAP in Silicon Valley, my personal experience suggests this: the strategy-execution disconnect is caused by the digital overload of messages, documents, processes, and data spread out across silos, share drives, cloud services, and hard drives.
Think about it: Where is your strategy? Is it in a presentation?
And where is the execution plan and process to drive your strategy? If you’re like most companies, it’s sitting in a static document or task management system.
And where is the history of the rationale behind your strategy, evolution of your strategic thinking, and shifts in strategic focus? If you’re like most companies, it’s locked away in tools like Slack or hidden within dispersed email threads.
And where are your real-time metrics tracked and who has visibility to them? While some teams and companies track metrics using dashboard software, few have a handle on them at all.
The strategy-execution disconnect is essential the result of the disconnect between what’s needed to move forward and the ability to access it, align around it, and move forward using it to make quick decisions.
More symptoms of the underlying problem
Beyond failed execution, what other symptoms arise due to the diffused digital overload of information and communication? An MIT study on meetings and productivity found that US companies hold 11 million meetings during a typical workday. To make matters worse, 24% of respondents said that they felt like they wasted time in too many meetings and conference calls. Managers spend almost ¾ of their time in meetings. All this costs US Business an estimated $37 billion annually. This is why some management experts have been calling for the abolishment of status meetings altogether.
Ask yourself, does your team understand your strategy? Are they clear on the process steps to effectively execute it? Even if your team is clear on what to do, do you have real-time, instant status and progress metrics anytime you want it?
My experience is this: ask an employee what the company’s top three strategic initiatives are, and you’ll get a variety of answers – and you’d likely need a meeting to clarify the answer! Try it and see!
Solving the strategy-execution disconnect
I believe we need to fundamentally rethink the principles underlying organizational and team collaboration. We need to take a more human and more visual approach to the type of collaboration that aligns strategy and execution. Teams need to bring together strategic plans, best practice process tools & templates, and analytics that track progress all in one place. Only through doing this will it be possible for people to align, contribute and stay up-to-speed in real-time, any time.
And when it comes to today’s data rich, analytics-driven world, people need a single place where all relevant documents, messages and agreements are tracked over time. Team and organizational effectiveness requires that information is only pushed when absolutely needed and pulled when truly desired. As artificial intelligence gains steam, teams will benefit from proactive pattern recognition and the automated surfacing of strategic themes that have direct implications for recalibrating strategy and shifting execution plans.
When it comes to meetings, team members should be able to come to meetings already knowing the status of everything that’s relevant to the meeting at hand – so the broader team can engage in meaningful discussions on strategy and collaboratively solve complex problems.
And finally, I believe non-technical managers should be able to set up this environment and get their team up and running in minutes.
This is what we’re creating at upBOARD . Our goal is to eliminate the strategy-execution disconnect.
Michael Lynch is co-founder and CEO of upBOARD. He is a seasoned leader of successful startups and large company innovation initiatives. He previously led the IoT strategy and go-to-market teams at SAP, joining SAP as part of the acquisition of Right Hemisphere Inc., where he held the position of CEO. He’s a serial entrepreneur who’s closed rounds of funding from Sequoia Capital, Sutter Hill Ventures, NVIDIA and others, had multiple successful exits and produced over thirty award winning Internet, education, enterprise and entertainment software products for Disney, Real Networks, IBM, Microsoft, Sony and others. Michael attended the Manhattan School of Music where he studied Opera and prior to technology, starred in numerous Broadway and TV shows as an actor.