“Developing and activating strategy” skills are critical according to the Sheffield Leadership Survey 2018. In this recent survey we asked young leaders what their key areas of focus were. A massive 17% said that strategy was a key area of focus for them. Moreover, 22% stated that the failure of not delivering on strategy was keeping them awake at night.

Many of us have been involved in strategic planning to one degree or another. It’s often a regular occurrence in the company calendar; the planning day away, lots of whiteboards, marker-pens and gigantic post-it-notes. Whilst these sessions are useful and we return to work with the best intentions, it’s the follow-up and implementation that is often missing … and research tells us that 2/3rds of all strategies are not successfully executed!

According to HBR, “the fundamentals of good execution start with clarifying decision rights and making sure information flows where it needs to go.” In other words, the right information going to the right places is critical. 

According to DDI, to effectively “realise strategy” (and to therefore execute it) the following model might be useful as a framework to follow:


Turning your strategy into reality depends on synergy between these four variables.

1.      FOCUS - Are your strategic business and cultural priorities clear? Is your strategy communicated?

2.     ALIGNMENT – Is there a line of sight for the staff to the strategy? Is there consistent messaging in place to mobilise your workforce in one direction? Are the priorities/KPIs cascaded to individual objectives or tactics, so you can measure and create alignment? And are your systems and processes aligned to enable strategic operational improvement?

3.     ENGAGEMENT – How effective are your daily interactions, coaching and performance discussions to create alignment? Do conversations encourage joint problem solving and feedback? Ensuring your leaders have high levels of EQ certainly helps in this area.

4.     RESULTS – Sustainability happens through achieving results, monitoring progress and celebrating success. This, in turn, creates pride and helps to build a strong sense of meaning, purpose and ownership for all involved.

Execution is a notorious and perennial challenge and just two-thirds of employees agree that important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action. To successfully execute an organisation's strategy, it must be the focus of every person in that organisation. It is up to you as leaders to create, monitor, reinforce and reward that focus as it is expressed.


Louise's original article can be found in LinkedIn here.

Louise can be contacted here.

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