A recent HBR Blog piece Closing the Chasm Between Strategy and Execution makes a compelling case for strategists and executors collaborating with each focused on assuring that the others are successful. I’d like to build on this case by looking at who the Executors are and what it really takes to be confident in executing on a strategy even where collaboration is strong.
Inevitably, the Executors will be the executive team members who run divisions or functions of the company. By understanding the design of the strategy, perhaps even influencing it, they will be better positioned to deliver. The HBR blog makes this point well. The challenge, however, is that there is a second chasm that also needs to be closed: the chasm between the senior executives and the rest of the employees. The executives will have a high-level view of the capabilities under them. They will assume that their designers can design the new strategic product or service, that their research team can produce any new technology required, that their thought leaders can generate the new ideas and concepts needed, that they open a new facility in China on schedule and recruit a top team on site and that their people in a myriad of places not considered can get the bandwidth and manager support for all the little things that need to go right. Boy, can these assumptions be wrong.
Do you think for a minute that Blackberry didn’t think its team could produce the SmartPhone to rival Apple and Droid? Is it possible that Kodak didn’t see the need to virtually start over when the world went digital? Did Borders completely miss what Amazon and Barnes & Noble saw? Of course not. They saw the issues, set the right strategy, probably even had the right executives at the table. It just didn’t happen. Why? Because at the end of the day, EVERY strategy succeeds or fails based on capabilities and behaviors of people; and these people are never at the table when the strategy is designed.
It’s time to go deeper, much deeper in planning execution of strategy, particularly those parts of the strategy that will make or break a company’s future. It takes an accurate, granular understanding of existing talent capabilities compared to what competitors have and what the market can provide. And then it takes closing the chasm between this and the talent it will take to get the strategy done. It takes a Talent Strategy. You might think of this as Workforce Planning on steroids, unbiased by any preconceived notions of what the organizational capability is to deliver on strategy. Future winners will get on this bandwagon. To those who don’t, beware the consequences!