To compete in a complex world it is tempting to focus on developing complex strategies. In fact the key is often to devise a simple strategy that can be executed effectively. Execution is the critical factor and yet despite its importance it remains poorly understood.
Closing the Gap Between Strategy and Execution, a new two-day program lead by Donald Sull at MIT Sloan School of Management, focuses on this fundamental issue – an issue that a recent survey of more than 400 global CEOs considered their main challenge. Studies have found that two-thirds to three-quarters of large organizations struggle to implement their strategies.
“Books and articles on strategy outnumber those on execution by an order of magnitude,” says Sull, a global expert, who for the past nine years has been researching how complex organizations can execute their strategies more effectively.
He points to how good execution driven from the top is a myth – in fact good execution, which is about an ongoing alignment and adaptation of business units and balancing initiatives in order to deliver strategy, is best driven from the middle. He also points to the importance of data and analytics as aids to execution– data is increasingly used to assess markets, but rarely to monitor strategy execution. Too often executives travel blind when it comes to execution says Sull.
Most leaders rely on a set of implicit beliefs about how to get things done when they try to execute their strategy. Many common assumptions about execution, however, are incomplete at best and dangerous at worst. Executives often focus on specific tools, such as the balanced scorecard or management by objectives, to drive strategy execution without understanding how these tools interact with one another. This new program at MIT Sloan aims to help leaders reframe strategy execution, providing participants with these takeaways:
Data-based insights from a state-of-the-art survey that will help you pinpoint concrete opportunities to improve your organization’s execution capacity
Best practices from some of the most effective organizations in the world
A structured tool for developing a strategy for execution that is easy to communicate and translate into action
Simple rules to embed strategic guidance into key activities while retaining the flexibility to seize unexpected opportunities
A series of worksheets to help you translate, in real time, insights from the course into concrete actions you can take when you return to work
A framework to identify and manage interdependencies among different parts of your organization
Guidance on how to retain the agility to execute your strategy in volatile markets
"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results" Winston Churchill
Don Sull is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is a leading management thinker and has been named by Fortune as among the ten new management gurus to know. His latest book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, co-authored with Stanford University's Kathleen Eisenhardt, aims to help more people put these simple rules in practice.