“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese proverb.
The strategy execution gap is a classic problem. There are numerous reasons for this but the key reason, for the purpose of this article, is to emphasise that planning and execution are interdependent. Strategy formulation and implementation are separate, distinguishable parts of the strategic management process. Logically, implementation follows formulation; one cannot implement something until that something exists. But formulation and implementation are also interdependent parts of an overall process of planning-executing-adapting.
The thinking styles of the people who create strategy are often different from those of the people who implement it. Strategy is usually developed by people who employ long-term thinking, while execution is often done by those who are detail orientated. Furthermore, strategy is usually done by people who are focused on ideas and connections, while implementation is done by those who focus on process and action.
This difference in thinking styles creates a problem when strategy turns into execution. Those who create the strategy are often thinking about the destination, particularly the opportunity and intended outcomes. Meanwhile, those responsible for implementation are thinking about the realities of what it will take to get there.
Our suggestion is to do strategy formulation and implementation planning in parallel. Yes, they are different processes but it is pointless to go through the whole process of preparing a strategic plan only to be told that the time and expense associated with the implementation thereof makes it unrealistic – and then you have to start all over.
Instead of viewing different thinking styles as a hindrance, harness the differences to create an infallible strategy. It is important, when developing a strategic plan, for a person to be able to state how it will realistically work and vice versa.
This could take the form of two employees in an organisation working together or through business coaching. Coaching would enable a person to have an objective sounding board when translating strategies into actions. Coaching would also enable a person, during the process, to identify where they may be difficulties and to develop plans in order to improve on that development area – such as not focusing enough on the details.
Bonchek, M. (2017). Is Execution Where Good Strategies Go to Die? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/is-execution-where-good-strategies-go-to-die
Hrebiniak, L. (2008). Making Strategy Work: Overcoming the Obstacles to Effective Execution. Ivey Business Journal. Retrieved from https://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/making-strategy-work-overcoming-the-obstacles-to-effective-execution/
Leinwand, P. & Carmichael, S.G. (2016). Closing the Strategy-Execution Gap. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/02/closing-the-strategy-execution-gap.html