Successful strategy execution = alignment + mindset + capability

23 November 2022 3 min. read
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With the world increasingly demanding speed and agility, the importance of strategy execution is more evident than ever. Ignacio Vaccaro, Senior Director at BTS, outlines how business leaders can master the art of strategy execution.

Today’s brightest leaders feel compelled to continue to move fast and innovate, improve, and expand, against a shifting backdrop of huge uncertainty and disruption. Delivering both defensive and offensive plays adds to the pile of “to dos” to keep up with the marketplace and satisfy their boards.

This mindset has turned strategy into a daunting exercise that adds to rather than becomes part of executing on critical initiatives. It’s no wonder capable teams, inundated with requests, projects, and ideas, often miss the mark on execution.

Ignacio Vaccaro, Senior Director, BTS

When leaders race to lead their teams to deploy strategic initiatives without ensuring the connective tissue that strategy execution requires, activity increases with fewer checks and balances that realign to the business’ most critical goals. While lots of work seems to be getting done, increasingly it’s the wrong work to deliver on the strategy. Momentum stalls, and the challenges continue to mount.

Even the smartest leaders are left wondering, “why isn’t there a better way?”

Future-proofing their business, when the ‘new normal’ is full of change and challenge, requires leaders to focus on three critical pillars of strategy execution:
1) Alignment: a common understanding of priorities, roles, and responsibilities
2) Mindset: beliefs and attitudes of the individuals that impact ability of the team and organization to execute
3) Capability: the leadership skills required to implement and deploy strategy

Building stronger alignment and developing the right capabilities remain critical and are regularly discussed in the context of strategy execution. In our practice at BTS, we have found that mindset is seldom given the airtime it deserves and is the crucial third element in successful strategy execution.

Shared mindsets are critical at the C-suite, undoubtedly, but strategy execution truly stagnates when employees are unable to shift their individual mindsets to make the desired change a reality. The current uncertainty and volatility only exacerbate this. If there’s ever been a time that requires people to make timely decisions, big and small, that drive execution, that time is now.

As leaders think about gearing up their organization to execute on their strategy in the uncertain year ahead, they should keep in mind that they face an ever-present need to move fast and do a lot. A leader’s role is to check their action bias through the focus of strategy execution done right.

The key is to have both the alignment (so everyone knows what to do) and the mindset (so everyone shares a collective understanding of what the organization needs and how individuals can support that).

As an example, with an enterprise mindset, a leader should prioritize thinking about what are the best actions to grow the whole company, rather than optimizing ‘solely’ for their own business unit. This will mean tabling initiatives within the business unit, in favor of realigning those resources to the broader initiative.

The third gamechanger is capability (so everyone has the right skills to take action on the critical strategic elements.) Often, an action-biased, fast-moving business culture forces leaders to be playmakers without a practice field.

Executing differently may require new skills for analysis, decision-making and pivoting in the moment. Immersing leaders in a realistic environment – one that reflects board room tensions and trade-offs, economic and business scenarios, and opportunities to test the elements of their strategy without risk – will ultimately lay the foundation for the mindset shifts required by transformation.