The three Cs of better strategy implementation

When it comes to strategy implementation, there’s often a gap between what businesses aim to deliver and their de facto capabilities. Reasons for disconnect between a desire to improve strategy and an ability to do so boil down to three primary pain points, all beginning with "C"—culture, compensation, and consolidation.

When it comes to strategy implementation, there’s often a gap between what businesses aim to deliver and their de facto capabilities. In a recent Twitter poll carried out by Quartz Creative in partnership with the Brightline Initiative, 59% of respondents reported that their companies aren’t able to effectively implement strategy. The poll also found that more than half (52%) of respondents don’t have adequate project management skills to implement strategy.

Reasons for disconnect between a desire to improve strategy and an ability to do so boil down to three primary pain points, all beginning with "C"—culture, compensation, and consolidation. We have distilled each below. These Cs are backed by Brightline’s Guiding Principles, which provide organizations with a roadmap for successfully designing, implementing, and maintaining effective strategy.

1. Culture that’s centered around strategy

One obstacle businesses face when trying to effectively deploy strategy is a foundational issue rather than an operational one: Their company lacks a strategy-oriented culture. In this case, a business fails to embrace basic, fundamental principles critical for helping strategies evolve when facing inevitable disruption. Without a strategy-oriented culture, businesses will eventually experience either gridlock or chaos when mission-critical measures break or become outdated.

The foundation of a strategy-oriented culture begins with Brightline’s 1st Guiding Principle, which stipulates that companies should acknowledge that delivering upon strategy is just as important as designing it. No matter how determined or gifted your employees are, a lack of drive or ability to bring great ideas to life will be a major hindrance to progress.

One way to ensure employees have tools to follow through on strategy design is to equip them with the right training and technologies. And yet, a full 35% of respondents to the Twitter survey reported that their companies "never" hold strategic competence development training sessions. A failure to invest in future-planning is a major oversight, but it can be corrected by developing recurrent, data-driven learning and development programming that puts strategic implementation at its core.

On the technology side, there is a plethora of platforms available that enable companies to be smart about strategic design, including data-driven competitive intelligence tools and customer feedback platforms. Again, however, this is an arena where many companies may be falling short: 31% of Twitter respondents said their companies "never" implement customer feedback into strategic decision-making, and 32% noted a complete lack of utilization of competitive intelligence.

"Accountability" is another core pillar of company culture that’s crucial for effectively implementing strategy. Companies must hold employees, executives, and partners accountable for delivering upon strategy that’s taken invaluable time and energy to develop. A company culture that champions making decisions and sticking with them—as well as accepting that failure is a natural part of growth—will encourage teams to think boldly when it comes to strategic brainstorming and rebound quickly in the event that a decision isn’t up to snuff. After all, it’s often easier to course-correct than it is to recover after being left in the dust by competitors.

2. Compensation for strategic contributions

When asked about effective ways to encourage teams to implement and uphold strategy, half (50%) of respondents to the Twitter poll noted that "financial incentives" were top priority, followed by "appreciation and recognition" of efforts (34%).

Both financial compensation and intangible recompense—like positive reinforcement and public acknowledgement of "wins"—can nudge teams toward actively participating in designing effective strategy. Brightline’s 10th Principle, which emphasizes the importance of celebrating successes/acknowledging when a team or individual hits strategic goals, directly supports the concept that incentivization is a winning component of successful strategy delivery.

3. Consolidated point-people and go-to teams who handle strategy

For most organizations, there’s no one-size-fits-all role dubbed "strategy implementer extraordinaire"— so having a consolidated, accessible squad of point-people dedicated to strategic tasks is an important part of growth and prosperity. Many companies, however, may fail to consider this key resource when it comes to organizational structure and responsibility delegation: The Twitter poll found that more than half (52%) of respondents’ organizations do not have a centralized function to oversee strategy, and 18% indicated they believe their company “should” dedicate such a team.

Strategic point-people may manifest as a centralized group of employees, or they may be spread throughout an organization in a lateral manner. Regardless of whether these individuals are part of one team or spread across many, they should be provided the resources to collaborate and ensure that they’re on the same page, and that their teams are working toward the same overarching goals.

These employees may oversee regular reinforcement of strategic delivery, as well as both inter- and intra- company communication and cooperation. These individuals may also be responsible for ensuring that ongoing strategic efforts are working before the company commits to dreaming up new ones.

When considered within the framework of Brightline’s Guiding Principles, the above "Cs" can help your company turn the kernels of strategic design into thriving and functional processes—and serve as a go-to guide when your business is considering mission-critical changes.

This piece was created on behalf of Brightline Initiative by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

Published on 20 November 2018, by Brightline Initiative, Quartz Creative