The importance of strategy is widely acknowledged as essential to staying relevant in the market, yet a gap between strategy and its execution continues to impede success across all markets and industries.
This is despite organisations spending large amounts of time and effort developing their strategies and communicating them to ensure they are understood by all.
Strategy execution is most likely to happen with the successful delivery of projects, programme and portfolios that are distinct from the day-to-day operations and have been identified as those that will change or move an organisation forward.
While there are many external and internal forces at play, the majority of organisations struggle to execute their strategies in an effective enough manner because there is a lack of alignment at some or multiple levels within the organisation.
Misalignment leads to failure
According to the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance, published in February 2014, a lack of alignment between projects and organisational strategy led to failure 44 percent of the time.
One of the greatest causes of misalignment is when too many projects are green lighted and resources are spread too thin and are not allocated properly – also causing project failures.
Research for the Harvard Business Review; Why Strategy Execution Unravels – And What to do About It reveals that only 11 percent of managers believe all of their company’s strategic priorities have the financial and human resources needed for success.
In other words, nine in 10 expect some of their organisations major initiatives to fail for lack of resources.
When broken down even further, the research reveals that less than one-third of managers believe their organisations reallocate funds to the right places quickly enough to be effective.
And the reallocation of people is even worse. In the same report, only 20 percent of managers say their organisations do a good job of shifting people across units to support strategic priorities.
Clearly, inadequate and misaligned resources take their toll on successful strategy execution and contribute greatly to strategic misalignment across the organisation.
Having the right talent, with the right knowledge and effective power to manage resource allocation to effectively support the execution of project-based work, is one of the keys to bridging the strategy execution alignment gap.
Connecting the dots
When there is alignment between strategy and projects, the strategy is more easily understood – enabling the work to proceed appropriately with a focus on delivering value and results.
The organisation and its team have the clarity and understanding needed to connect the dots between the work they are responsible for executing and how it relates to the organisation’s desired strategic outcome.
This shared understanding helps the following to happen more effectively:
- Guides decision-making
- Helps prioritise project-based work
- Ensures the appropriate resources are delayed
Leaders need to evaluate teams across a range of technical and relational skills that support strong strategy execution alignment.
Today the role of the professionals responsible for executing project-based work is evolving from primarily a technical focus toward a more strategic perspective.
This shift reflects the external market environment which requires all workforces to have a greater sense of strategic purpose and engagement, in addition to tactical expertise.
This also places greater importance on the role leadership plays in evaluating and growing talent to ensure it can meet the demands of the business.
Given the ever-increasing need for experienced project management talent, forward-thinking organisations see it as an imperative to grow teams that:
- Bring a strategic perspective
- Understand the importance of strategy execution alignment
- Understand the role their work and projects play in the organisation achieving its objectives
Cultivating a workforce with a solid balance of technical and relational skills helps ensure the gap between strategy making and execution is minimised.
In turn, by closing the strategy execution gap, your organisation will be able:
- Remain competitive
- Achieve innovation breakthroughs
- Reduce time to market
- Improve overall performance
For further on bridging the gap between strategy and execution, including how to work out where your organisation is in the bridge-building process – and the areas that need most attention – read: Bridging the Gap: The Chasm That’s Killing Your Company.