Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Power of Conviction

People often say "The missing link in strategy is implementation". What they mean is that the new strategy simply sits on the shelf and nothing changes.

I have always found this to be most intriguing. I would have thought that people in organizations would be particularly strong on implementation. Entrepreneurs tend to be "doers". They employ smart people with practical skills. They pay these employees to do what they are asked to do, and if they don't do it, they are at risk of being fired. There are plenty of project managers who have the skills to plan and manage the implementation of projects.

If you are going to install a new computer system, you tell all your employees what they are required to do. If they don't do it, they are in trouble. No one has a choice. Everyone has their own part to play, to reach the point where the new system is functioning properly.

So, when it comes to strategy, why is implementation such a problem?

For one thing, a strategy is not an action plan. First you have to define the strategy. Then you work out a plan to achieve it.

Secondly, it's been said that a failure to execute is always due to one of three things:

1. You don't know what to do,

2. You don't know how to do it, or

3. Someone or something is standing in the way.

I believe that with strategy, the first point is usually the main problem. If your strategy is empty rhetoric; just fine-sounding words, it won't have any substance and won't generate any action. If, however, you have a clear conviction that you've come up with the right strategy, you will know what you have to do. You will work out how to do it. Nothing and no one will stand in the way. But if you're not entirely sure about the strategy you've formulated, if you haven't developed a clear vision, if you haven't thought deeply enough about your specific value proposition and how you will differentiate, you won't have sufficient drive to mobilise the people around you to take action on it. You'll have a nagging concern that something's not quite right. A strategy has to feel right. It's partly a logical and partly intuitive decision.

If the thinking is done thoroughly and well, then the doing will follow easily.

Without strong conviction, you're just stuck in precedent.

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