In the first quarter of last year, SBI published a research report that discussed how gaps in execution often threaten a CEO’s strategic plan. The data collected underscored the point; various studies indicated that somewhere between 63% – 74% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. As noted in the report, not altogether surprising. What was eye-opening was the percentage of CEO’s our research indicated still rated setting strategy as more important. It was clear that a critical disconnect existed.
A considerable amount of external interest and feedback was generated from the report. In the spirit of reiterating best practices when many companies are undergoing disruptive strategic change, this blog will provide a refresher “cliff notes” version. Primarily focused on how to define the correct tactical execution priorities for your organization once the GTM strategy is established.
To start, there needs to be agreement on two simple definitions. One, strategy involves doing the right things. Two, tactics and execution involve doing things right. With that in mind, how do you ensure organizational focus on the right tactics so that your GTM strategy is successful?
1. Execute From the Top Down
This isn’t a task to be delegated. You must embrace being an “active” versus a “passive” CEO and lead the entire organization onto the field and in the right direction. Do so by way of example.
The most effective role of a CEO in execution will vary based on the magnitude, urgency, and nature of the changes being undertaken. However, our research suggests that there are three fundamental functions that collectively define success when it comes to a CEO’s personal level of involvement in strategic execution.
- Make the strategic execution personally meaningful. A powerful and compelling story from an organization’s leader helps employees believe in the effort. Constant reinforcement of the vision and public spotlights on early success is incredibly important.
- Role model desired mindsets and behavior. Ultimately employees will weigh your actions, not your words, to decide if they believe in the vision you are painting. Find individuals who make oversized contributions to the execution plan relative to their roles and reward them handsomely and publicly.
- Relentlessly pursue impact. Get down on the floor and help resolve difficult day to day operational issues. Make sure the organization knows, and sees, you are developing a culture of candor and decisiveness.
2. Ensure Your Direct Reports Are Execution Masters
Having the right people with the right capabilities in the right leadership roles is a central responsibility of an execution-oriented CEO. You can’t be everywhere, so you must have a team that shares your bias towards action and can help shoulder the responsibilities and spread the word.
Here are seven specific behaviors demonstrated by execution-oriented leaders. For more detail on each, go to Page 9 of the research report.
- Highly involved
- Overtly realistic
- Develops accountability
- Frequently coaches
- Knows themselves
3. Ensure Cross-Functional Interlock
Successful strategy execution doesn’t happen in silos. All your functional leaders and business units must be rowing in the same direction. Frequent communication between them is critical so that when inevitable course corrections happen, one group isn’t left behind.
When it came to delivery of execution plans, our research showed that 84% of managers felt they could rely on their bosses and direct reports all or most of the time. That number dropped to 59% when the same question was asked relative to colleagues in other functions.
Going further, 30% of respondents cited failure to coordinate across functional units as the most significant challenge in executing their company’s strategy. And managers said they were 3x more likely to miss performance commitments because of insufficient support from other functional areas.
For additional help, download the SBI GTM Interlock Tool here.
4. Implement Specific Execution Indicators and Track Them Relentlessly
You, and the entire organization, must have an easily accessible way to know how metrics are tracking against execution plans. And more importantly – how that is translating into results anticipated from the strategy. “Good” isn’t a once a quarter, or even a once a month exercise.
The larger your organization, the more likely data necessary to successfully measure execution comes from multiple sources. Set accountability upfront for who will collect, filter, and streamline daily, weekly, and monthly reports for you and your executive team to review. They should focus on only those specific metrics that have been chosen for their direct correlation to successful execution. Make the same simple metrics available to all levels of the organization and stakeholders in the execution plan.
SBI Senior Consultant Malorie Feidner provides 10 great examples of KPI’s that matter during the COVID-19 crisis here.
It is certainly ideal (and very difficult) to be great at both setting strategy and executing on it. But if you had to select one to master first, refer to the famous quote by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras – “Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.”
These are times of unprecedented change for many B2B firms. It is highly likely that readers of this blog are trying to guide their organizations through strategic GTM adjustments. While doing so, do not underestimate the importance of flawless execution. Remember the statistic in the first paragraph. Somewhere between 63% – 74% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. Stay focused on being part of the other 26% – 37%.