January 2016 | Strategy
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results” — Sir Winston Churchill
According to Wharton professor Larry Hrebiniak, many companies have good strategies. Where they go wrong, says the author of Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution, is in the implementation. “Execution is the hard part. But the good news is that there are specific tools you can use to overcome even the most formidable obstacles. When you understand the key factors involved, and determine which need your attention, you can approach execution logically and improve the odds for success.”
Hrebiniak interviewed hundreds of managers involved in strategy execution for his book, and has worked with hundreds more as academic director of Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution. Both the book and the executive education program focus on the knowledge, capabilities, and insights leaders need for execution success. He notes, “Even great leaders in top management positions will fail if they’re not well-versed in the conditions that affect execution success. They need to understand what makes strategy work. Intuition and personality simply aren’t sufficient given such a complex task.”
To address that complexity, the program approaches implementation from a range of lenses including talent management, leadership, organizational culture, and change management. Hrebiniak says the diverse faculty have adapted content over time to address new issues being confronted by the participants. “Participants used to be mostly from the United States and working in manufacturing. Today, about 60 percent of the participants are coming from outside the U.S., and they represent a wide range of industries, including banking, law, and medicine, that we didn’t formerly see in a strategic execution program.”
But no matter the company, industry, or culture, Hrebiniak says six obstacles represent the majority of execution failures. And while you might not be able to pull a lever on all of them, solid leadership on even a few can improve your strategic outcomes. He advises participants in the program to focus on areas in which they have leverage, and start small.
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