From strategy to execution

Strategy-making and execution are iterative and continuous processes that thrive with ruthless compassion 

Any strategic shift in an organization’s priorities and operations will affect, simply put, everyone. That is why it is essential to make the upcoming changes – and the process of change itself – concrete and tangible for all. Every stakeholder, internal and external, needs to be able to get a clear view of the new strategy from their own perspective: what will change for me, how, and why?

Building trust, enhancing relationships, creating alignment and transparency

For the company’s leadership, this means checking in with representatives from all facets of the organization. By bringing together insights from these open and honest sessions, a shared image emerges of the new strategy and its execution, with optimal relevance for every layer, every position. It is essential to do this while connecting the strategic process of change to the company’s long-term future and development: the immediate execution is a change happening now that will ultimately affect, and ideally improve, the organization as a whole for a long time to come.

At NGL, we prefer to segment and clarify the change process into attainable sub-targets that can be pursued step by step. This makes it easier to marry an internal perspective that reflects the company’s pride and potential with an external point of view that solidifies the organizational evolution in its wider context – an essential prerequisite for any successful change process.

“With myself coming into this process at the start of an executive journey in a challenging and fragmented environment, the guidance of my coach helped me to become more in-tune with not just who I am as a professional but who I am as a person – and why it is ok for those two things to be inextricably linked. I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity to work with her and it has had (and will continue to have) a profound impact on me.”
Director of an international NGO

Let’s talk about strategy and execution: team composition, culture, stakeholders, and success

To make the transition from strategy to execution, the leadership team needs to be able to translate the immediate question of “what” into an equally important (and supplemental) question of “how.” They key to delivering that translation successfully lies, in great part, in the team’s composition.

The individual team members, for example, should offer diverse but complementary skillsets and experiences while operating as a unified force within the organization. This allows for an effective harmonization of responsibilities based on mutual trust and respect. At the same time, there should be enough overlap and common ground in viewpoints and capabilities for other team members to assume additional responsibilities in case one of their fellow leaders should drop out (temporarily).

At NGL, we understand that in this balancing act, the leader’s role is paramount. That is why our efforts will always serve to keep the leader focused on the right priorities and connected to all the elements involved.

Culture is key

The ideas and priorities embedded in a new strategy can only become actionable and take root if they are nourished by the company culture. If not, strategy will always remain philosophy. At every step, therefore, the steps that will take the strategy into execution should be secured by a thorough understanding of the company’s culture and history.

This includes assessing and monitoring how the chosen approach registers within different parts of the organization; encouraging everyone to speak up and share their perspective; and detailing the kind, quality, and consequences of the changes to come. Once aligned with and supported by the company culture, the new execution can become sustainable, engaging, and effective.

Know your stakeholders

Any strategic shift within an organization must be informed by a deep knowledge and appreciation of the stakeholders involved. This includes employees, customers, shareholders, Supervisory Board, supply chain, and more. Managing these stakeholders and coaching the team is the leader’s primary role in the change process.

This is based on establishing and fostering a fruitful dialogue with the different parties, based on the timely sharing of key information, receiving, and processing feedback, and consolidating the stakeholders’ understanding that they are crucial to the new strategy’s successful execution.

Here again, NGL sees a critical role for the leader, who needs to facilitate and encourage “courageous conversations” with all parties involved – and, crucially, with the members of their own team. Only if everyone’s hearts and minds are effectively aligned can the translation from strategy to execution be completed on time, within budget, and with full grassroots support.

How to define success

Defining success for a company-wide strategic shift is a delicate and dynamic matter: any definition laid down at the start of the process will, at the end of the line, have been superseded by realities on the ground. In other words: it is imperative to architect the change in an adaptable, flexible way.

The task of identifying the indicators and measurables of success is of paramount importance. Also, pinpointing obstacles and limiting risk factors will contribute to a favorable outcome, even if “success” is a moving target. Its iterative definitions will evolve over time and reflect shifting stakeholder perspectives – but this will also provide clarity and resilience to the ongoing process.