TAKEAWAY: One way to facilitate business performance is to intervene right at the hand-off between strategy and execution. New energy and approaches are being applied at this point of hand-off, using it as a bridge  to promote change, simplify, and increase diligence.

In the war of business, there’s a vital bridge between strategy and execution. This is the bridge where companies move from ideas to reality, and the battle fought here often determines the outcome of the war. You need to take this bridge, maintain it and use it to your advantage. However, many companies fail to accomplish the mission. Too many don’t see the battle line, or take it for granted, or don’t take the required deliberate steps.

It’s an up hill battle if direction has been less than clear or incomplete, multiple plans are in play, and the troops are looking for clarity or even find themselves at odds with each other (friendly fire). With supportive leadership and a meaningful strategy and objectives that are expected to drive behaviors and performance, what can a company do to take the bridge, to bring the strategy to life and perform as desired?

Even if you have weapons, the strategy-to-execution bridge is difficult to take. Good intentions and resources don’t necessarily result in the required capabilities and the desired outcomes. Why is this so? Certainly it has to do with leadership and decision making and commitment and so on. But what are some characteristics in evidence when organizations come up short?

  • Business has been good/growing and processes have not kept up or have essentially been ignored, and now the processes-capabilities cannot keep up with new mandates. Really there can be any number of reasons why processes-capabilities have not kept up, from economic constraints, to lack of process ownership and/or basic diligence, to weak business-IT engagement, to misaligned metrics.
  • There are multiple directives and initiatives competing for resources, and each might or might not be following the same direction and priorities. They might be more absorbed with functional or regional agendas that that of the enterprise.

If your company exhibits some version of the above, you might be caught up in trench warfare throwing hand grenades, when a more surgical strike is needed. So the question might come, how can we more surely take the bridge? Again the answer will be affected by leadership and decision making and commitment, etc., all of which could be aided by a business performance blueprint (a complete battle plan). But more specifically, how might you turn the tide of this battle and productively bridge from strategy to execution?

In the war of business, trial-and-error and lots of disconnected efforts are never advised. Troop morale can suffer and their lives (livelihoods) are at stake. Before you approach the bridge, in whatever fashion you do it, be sure to have the highest order sponsorship and commitment. If missed or mishandled it becomes a first and fatal flaw. Also, embrace this as a change that needs to facilitate more change as required to thrive in today’s competitive environment. It’s going to require change agents among process representatives, IT, and business operations. If you’re ready (or resigned) to change for performance advantage then the following might be a way of approaching it. Essentially, look to change the battleground to your advantage.

Drive toward one governance body to select, prioritize, and monitor all significant (funded) projects/programs within the company.

  • Make this the only bridge between strategy and execution, and deliberately use it to simplify and promote desired changes, accommodating all classes of projects. It cannot simply if it’s just another internal option being added.
  • Ensure this governance body is directly connected and responsive to established strategy, goals and objectives. It cannot gain the performance advantage if not aligned.
  • Look for the right organizational placement of this governance body, especially considering the challenges associated with cross functional processes and regional variation. Groups that are cross-functional in nature are a natural fit, as include human resources and quality. Consider also that the application of IT is cross functional in nature and that the new generation of project & portfolio management (PPM) shows promise.
  • Use this forum to help ensure the right financial balance and alignment, such as the percentage of direct versus indirect costs, and impact on an operational, capital, and compensation basis.
  • Bring ‘operational excellence’ activities into the same single governance structure. Consider such as total quality management (TQM), theory of constraints (TOC), and some legacy applications of project & portfolio management (PPM).
  • Ensure that all projects follow established methods and criteria, and that validated results are communicated via performance dashboard.

Companies need to simplify and gain focus in a way that improves performance. Attacking at the point of hand-off between strategy and execution (the bridge) is getting new attention and showing potential. Governance bodies have always been around, but this different and promising approach merits consideration. Performance at the strategy-execution bridge is closely directly related to overall performance in planned versus actual financials, so winning the battle presents a significant opportunity.