Be Successful: Bridge the Strategy Execution Gap

In a recently published article in the Harvard Business Review titledHow the Most Successful Teams Bridge the Strategy Execution Gap, Nathan Wilta and Orla Leonard (HBR, Nov. 2017) examined how 49 enterprise leadership teams spend their time relative to the perceived effectiveness of the senior team.

The results of their analysis are clarified below.

Commit to an identity.

The first two key differentiators for a high-performing team are that they:

  • Spend 20% more time than low-performing teams defining strategy, meaning translating a high-level vision into clear actionable goals.

  • Spend 12% more time aligning the organization around that strategy through frequent internal communications and driving a consistent message downward into the organization.

Translate strategy into everyday processes and capabilities.

The next differentiators of high performing teams are that they:

  • Spend 25% more time focusing the enterprise than their lower-performing peers. That time is spent establishing financial and operational metrics, aligning goals with overarching strategy, allocating resources, and reviewing key metrics.

  • Spend 14% more time checking their progress against strategic goals by reviewing key metrics and shifting resources accordingly.

Concentrate on the unique cultural factors that fuel success.

Implicit in this assumption is resisting the temptation to drive traditional change programs based on addressing gaps or weaknesses. This is an area where the data present a more complex picture.

High performing teams:

  • Spend 28% more time engaging the organization in ongoing dialogue about cultural enablers and barriers to execution. This includes forums for employees to voice concerns via surveys (e.g., employee engagement) and actual dialogue.

  • Invest almost one-third more time in optimizing talent capabilities by reviewing development plans, ensuring that succession plans are in place, and evaluating compensation plans to be competitive.

Demonstrate the ability to prioritize.

High performing teams:

  • Compared to lower-performing teams, spend 54% more time first setting direction, crafting a vision that serves as a guiding light for decisions regarding resources.

  • When it comes to execution, lower-performing teams spend an astounding 83% more-time fire-fighting and dealing with issues at a tactical rather than strategic level.

Shape the future.

High-performing teams successfully shape the future, rather than always being in a reactive mode in the present. How do they do it?

They spend 25.3% more time influencing high-level stakeholders by identifying their needs and managing their expectations.

Unsurprisingly, though easier said than done, the high-performing teams spend 13.2% more-time planning for the future by setting direction, creating a vision, and defining their strategy.

Finally, they shape the future by responding to change in the present (20.7% more effectively than lower-performing teams), positioning the enterprise for future success. This is consistent with much of the existing literature around the importance of agility in high-performing teams.