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Speed of Execution

by Caroline Buhagiar | 11 Apr. 2016

Many strategic initiatives often fail because companies miss the Time To Market window. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, most CEOs view the process as being too slow. What's going on? And how can you accelerate execution in your company? In their book Strategic Speed, authors Boswell, Frechette and Davis provide some answers.

Start by understanding the barriers to execution: Employees don't grasp where an initiative is going. They don't adopt new behaviors. They're not committed to working together to achieve results.

Most leaders try to speed things up by changing processes or installing new technologies, however better processes and systems won't remove these barriers. Instead, they need to unleash three people factors - clarity (understanding the goal), unity (collaborating across work groups), and agility (adapting quickly).

This is not by any extent rocket science or something we have not heard of before. However, for many organizations, it seems like a herculean task to get this aspect of management right. If management don’t get the people on board the project, there is little chance of success. It is an unfortunate fact that many companies pump in huge investment that leads to the poor execution of projects or initiatives, because of the commitment and engagement of employees. So what should companies do?

As stated by Steven Covey, a notable author and keynote speaker on developing effectiveness in individuals, says, “we must get the basics right.” This means that managers have to invest their time in clearly communicating the strategy of where the company is headed and how everyone within the organization is involved. Managers need to seek feedback from employees in order to hear out their concerns and fears, both of which are normal when implementing change. Once these concerns are dealt with, only then should you introduce your new strategy and push to have it executed. Identify champions from within the organization that believe in it and are committed “heart, minds and hands”, allowing them to better influence others. Create a sense of urgency, ensuring that the new strategy is implemented and gets to market in time. There is nothing more frustrating, after months of hard work, to realize that your competition has beat you to it.

In today’s global context it is a challenge to stay competitive amid constant turbulence and disruption. Any company that has made it past the start-up stage is optimized for efficiency rather than for strategic agility, this being the ability to capitalize on opportunities and dodge threats with speed and assurance. We can barely keep up with the pace of change, let alone get ahead of it. At the same time, the stakes—financial, social, environmental, political—are rising. Businesses need people that go above and beyond the call of duty. The top 10 most admired companies in 2015, according to Forbes magazine, have a few things in common. Two consistent factors come up frequently in these studies: a highly engaged and an agile workforce.

To achieve such levels of commitment, companies must ensure that the hygiene factors, based on Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, that fuel employee motivation and drive action, are constantly present in their organization. A strong competitive employee value proposition can help tremendously in achieving the latter. Companies must keep a vigilant eye on their attraction, development and retention strategies, as these will make the difference.

Caroline Buhagiar is an avid and passionate HR professional who has worked in large multinational companies in Europe, US and Asia. She is fluent in manufacturing excellence, business excellence, building HR capability and driving
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