The key determinant of a strategy’s success isn’t the what but the who. In a 2013 survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit of global senior executives, respondents said the No. 1 reason strategic initiatives at their companies succeed is buy-in and support from top leadership. But only half said that strategy implementation overall receives sufficient attention from the C-suite.
The EIU reports that 13 percent of respondents “benchmark their companies as well above average” in the execution of strategy: Those companies had completed 20 percent more strategic initiatives in the past three years than the rest of the sample. It also found that at 81 percent of those “best executors,” strategy implementation received an appropriate amount of C-suite attention.
The EIU assessed executive teams’ involvement in execution by asking the question:
For individual, high-performing strategic initiatives at your organization, in which of the following would a C-level executive typically take an active lead or role?
|Best Executors||All Other Respondents|
|Setting the broad scope||68%||61%||Communicating its importance to the organization||56%||46%|
|Creating the project team||55%||40%|
|Securing resources for the initiative||39%||22%|
|Implementing and tracking the results||35%||22%|
|Making adjustments as the initiative proceeds||32%||29%|
|Feeding insights from the initiative into the strategy-making process||29%||13%|
The EIU notes that under-involvement of top executives is a significant problem. The report expresses particular concern that less than half of respondents said the C-suite was involved in communicating the importance of strategic initiatives to the organization. It also tut-tutted that top executives at just 50 to 60 percent of companies are involved in initiative selection, prioritization, and allocation of resources.
More attention and support at the top, the EIU concludes, could improve chances that the best-laid plans are also the best-realized ones.
In a post on the HBR Blog Network, Randall H. Russell, a vice president at Palladium Group, urges CEOs to become “chief execution officers” by translating strategy into measurable objectives, communicating the strategy both inside and outside the organization, creating a system for feedback, and aligning reward structures with the strategy.