Strategy Execution In A Changing World

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If there is one thing we have learned, it is to expect the unexpected. As if the forces of globalization and digitalization weren’t disruptive enough, organizations have weathered the shockwaves of a global pandemic that have reshaped the business landscape and how we work. On its heels, the crisis in Ukraine reminds us that the business and political environment can be positively volatile.

The question becomes then, in our ever-changing world, how we can build organizations that are resilient and adaptable? Furthermore, how can organizations leverage agility, resilience, and adaptability for advantage?

Organizations need to be designed for agility. It does not happen by accident – it must be intentional and built in. One key source of agility comes from an organization’s ability to translate strategy and business change into harmonized, actionable results from end-to-end, across people, process, and technology. Increasing the pace and agility of solution delivery alone is not enough and can even speed up delivery of the wrong things that will not achieve the intended strategic direction. A second key source of agility comes from the composable design of an organization. Organizations can be designed and managed through capabilities, which are building blocks that can be reused to support new value propositions and products for customers. A composable design also makes organizations more interoperable to exchange and create value together with other organizations in its business ecosystem.

While startups have a better chance at designing for agility from the beginning, well-establish organizations and institutions have a much greater challenge. They tend to be more complex and interdependent, with cross-organizational silos that can lead to fragmented customer experiences, redundant and inefficient operations, and difficulty reacting to the pace of change.

So, how can organizations move forward? The crucial differentiator is to treat strategy execution as a critical capability of an organization, just like any other important function such as product development, sales, or customer care. Organizations need to build up their strategy execution muscles. Furthermore, just as blueprints underly changes to any physical building or structure, organizations have the equivalent: a business architecture. Blueprints are a vehicle to create understanding and activate change. A business architecture is a blueprint of an organization that creates a common understanding of what an organization does and aligns its strategy and execution. A business architecture is also what defines the composable pieces of an organization that allow for flexible, modular, and intentional design.

The forthcoming book, Strategy to Reality, provides a comprehensive overview and practical guidance on how organizations can build their capacity for end-to-end strategy execution, with a supporting business architecture. Below is an excerpt.

The complex state that many organizations find themselves in has now collided with high customer expectations and rapidly changing market forces. Due to digitalization, globalization, regulatory demands, stakeholder expectations, and other factors, constant change is the new normal. Whether the result of business strategy (defining where to play and how to win), operational strategy (designing the organization), or transformation strategy (changing how the organization works), organizations must do change well.

The challenge for organizations is less about having a poor strategy, than it is about having poor strategy execution…One of the main root causes of strategy execution challenges is hiding in plain sight. There is a gap between strategy and execution. Organizations often jump from ideation to implementation, skipping the important activation stage in the middle… 

Business architecture is the often-missing bridge between strategy and execution. It plays a role to help execute strategy more effectively every step of the way and is the golden thread that connects all the pieces from end-to-end…Think about a business architecture as the one go-to place where you can see everything an organization does at a high-level…This shared business knowledgebase from which countless views may be generated serves as a guidance system that people can consult to understand what the organization does today, design what it needs to look like in the future to achieve its goals, and determine how best to get there. 

We need an organizational metanoia, or a change in our thinking. Business architecture may simply be a blueprint of an organization, but because of its holistic nature, it facilitates a shift in peoples’ mindsets and behaviors as they use it over time. They begin thinking in wholes, not parts. 

So, let’s ask ourselves, what if? What if business direction was collectively translated, architected, prioritized, and planned from a business-driven and collaborative perspective – with the enterprise in mind – instead of performed disjointedly in silos? What if strategy execution were regarded as a critical capability of an organization, treated as a priority, and deliberately designed with transparency, ownership, and accountability from end-to-end? How much more successful could our organizations be?

The ability for organizations to translate business strategy into action, and constantly innovate and adapt to change, is now a necessity to survive and thrive. The organizations that can execute in a coordinated way, with pace and agility, will win.

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Kurt Benson 1 year ago Member's comment

Very insightful, thank you.