Across any business transformation, a strategy without execution is just an exciting story – and action without a strategy is just aimless wandering. Balancing strategy with execution (and vice versa) is a critical foundational pillar to ensure organizations can create change that is both transformational and sustainable. But closing that strategy to execution gap can be difficult for any business.
As we work with our clients to help them achieve ambitious business transformations across the life sciences, retail, and consumer products industries, we see that most organizations will fall under two (highly simplified) scenarios. These scenarios can be described as either a “Visionary Trap” – when strategy outweighs execution, or an “Execution Trap” – when execution outweighs strategy (Figure 1).
Grounded in years of experience addressing these fundamental imbalances, we developed a framework to help executives spot the early signs for these common traps. We dive into various examples of strategies that lost inertia due to a lack of executional detail as well as strategies that were disproportionately focused on execution over flexibility.
More importantly, we propose a set of proven solutions and considerations to address these fundamental dynamics (Figures 2 and 3). Whether you need to forge your strategy or enforce its execution, we provide clear and concise steps to ensure your business transformation journey is on the right path.
The Visionary Trap
Signs That Organizational Strategy Outweighs Execution
A strategy that outweighs execution (scenario A) typically presents several common organizational challenges, including:
- Lack of Organizational Follow Through
- Overcrowded Portfolio of Strategic Imperatives
- Funding Shortfalls Lead to Resource Scarcity and Capability Gaps
- Cultural Rigidity
Lack of Organizational Follow Through
Employees have seen strategy after strategy in their professional lives, often with mixed results, differing levels of communication and engagement, and/or coming from a variety of new executives. Companies will jumpstart a program, redraw organizational lines or business units, and/or launch ambitious initiatives only to let them quietly sunset without broader communication about results or directional changes, leading to no closure.