There is no strategy without execution, and there is no execution without leadership.
Several decades ago the wooden Dunlop Maxply racket was the only racket to have. A famous squash player said in an advertisement: “Without my Dunlop Maxply, I might as well use a flyswatter”. The Maxply dominated in tennis as well. The wooden Dunlop Maxply accompanied Borg and McEnroe to Finals Day at Wimbledon many times.
But times have changed. Today’s graphite and composite rackets have taken racket sports to unprecedented levels. Like never before, pinpoint control, flaming power and gentle finesse are possible with these new technology rackets. And the players are different as well. They are much fitter, follow rigorous scientific training regimes and adhere to nutrition plans formulated by sports physicians. Their shoes and clothes have been developed by leading scientists and engineers.
In the world of business, things have also changed, especially the pace of technology and
the rapid increase in global competition, all demanding the very best from the company and the leadership team. And strategic planning, once just an exercise of gathering last year’s numbers and adding 10%, is now highly rigorous with SWOT analysis, Porter’s Five-forces, scenario planning, emerging market analytics, pricing theories, Emergent and Disruptive strategies, and numerous other analytical and systematic approaches to developing the best strategy.
But in terms of strategy execution, most organizations are still playing with the wooden Dunlop Maxply. The statistics are alarming; most strategies fail, not because of poor strategy, but because of poor execution. When a CEO is fired, 70% of the time it is for failing to deliver on the strategic objectives they promised the board and the market. And most execution failures are the result of executives and managers spending more time focusing on their functional objectives than the overall strategic objectives. An organizatinal disease commonly called “heavy silo focus”.
For the past several years we have been introducing our clients to a new, integrated strategy execution process that breaks down the silo-based culture by organizing and focusing the entire company on the successful delivery of strategic objectives. This robust process helps build a culture of execution and accountability and represents the best chance organizations have of executing at pace against their strategy. The process is detailed in a book called: FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution.
Those of us of a certain age probably have a soft spot for the original Dunlop Maxply. Maybe one day we’ll have a sentimental attachment to the old silo-based ways of business planning and execution. But in today’s changing and competitive global marketplace, unless you have a robust business process in place that focuses on execution, you really might as well play with a flyswatter!
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!