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Closing The Gap Between Strategy & Execution

leadership leading change organisational design

According to a well-documented Harvard Business Review business leaders intuitively understand that barriers to long-term success include a lack of consistent interaction and collaboration among team members to execute strategically. Yet they still tend to focus improvement efforts on the tangible processes, structure, and authority instead of the people & cultural opportunities that will drive implementation success. This is generally because the ensuing actions and results relating to the tangibles are easier to validate as part of quantifiable performance metrics.

The irony is that most of us have experienced what happens when strategy execution starts with imposed change… People resist it, collective motivation may slump, and negative gossip might start to flow about why the company needs change in the first place.

The paradox is the fear of this resistance can be the very reason that business leaders focus on the tangible instead of the human. Open conversation or inclusion in the strategy creation may be perceived as too risky in case resistance surfaces, when according to many studies the exact opposite is true. Psychologically the feeling of imposed change increases resistance, where genuine reciprocal interactions and quality conversations create the platform for collaborative change.

In one study published in Harvard Business Review, by Alison Reynolds, Ashridge Business School and David Lewis, London Business School, concluded that 76% of execution fails because people fail to work together to make change happen.

Unfortunately, the popular consensus between directors and executives prescribes that focusing on the human element does not allow a prediction of certainty, yet participative and collaborative execution, commonly known as employee engagement, is exactly what executives and directors desire.

Newsflash… Employee engagement is not working because generally it starts with strategic thinking /planning that flows top down through one-way directive communication focusing on the tangible to avoid losing control.

It must start with energising people where you change attitudes and mindsets through genuine engagement from two-way interaction, and most significantly where the strategic thinking / planning element, is at least in part, shaped by the people who need to execute it.

Fact: When you involve your people in the thinking / planning process you will get their buy-in to the execution of strategy.

You need to create the space for genuine two-way interaction characterised by curiosity, expression of ideas and planning. Never underestimate the significance and value derived form exploring an open question with your team compared to imposing a strategy plan on them that cannot be critically challenged.

Acknowledgements: Alison Reynolds and David Lewis

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