Are we getting any better at executing strategic plans?

Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade


March 10, 2015


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FredPidsadnyPicBy Fred Pidsadny

I’ve been wondering about that ever since I read the groundbreaking June 2008 Harvard Business Review report, “The Secrets to Successful Strategy.”  That study revealed that a full 60 per cent of organizations assessed themselves as ‘poor’ at turning plans into results.

At the time, that admission surprised many leaders.  It also motivated them to seek answers.

fred strategyMuch has been written on how to get better at strategy execution – and much has been postulated about why organizations don’t seem to  ‘get it’.   Interestingly, the answer is so simple that it’s often overlooked.   And amazingly, even when the solution is identified, we don’t immediately address it.

Instead, with the greatest of intentions, we invest in ‘solutions’.  We install new systems and processes such as CRM, TQM, MRM, ZBB and countless others (insert your preferred systems-solution acronym here).   We set out to build performance cultures with training, team building and work-style assessments (what colour is your parachute?). We change organizational structures by downsizing, right-sizing and designing requisite structures.   Millions of dollars and oodles of time are often expended.

Yet we still have a hard time turning plans into results.   And we’ve now got new evidence to prove that this is true.  Harvard Business Review has just published a follow-up to its 2008 report and – and not surprisingly – it’s reporting that organizations have gotten WORSE at strategy execution.

According to the March 2015 Harvard article, a full 75 per cent of organizations now assess themselves as ‘poor’ at turning plans into results.  And, 400 CEOs surveyed rated “execution excellence” as their top concern, ahead of issues including growth and innovation.

So how then, do organizations get better at execution?  The original 2008 Harvard study gave a glimpse of the ‘solution’ that I alluded to earlier in this post.   Of the 60 per cent of companies who rated themselves as poor at turning plans into results, only one third said they were clear on what actions they should take and what decisions they can make.

Clarity.  It holds the key to better execution.  If you watch this column for my next posting, I’ll share with you some tips for what your organization can be doing to ensure clarity, alignment and commitment to your strategic plan.  To drive better execution.

Fred Pidsadny, Founder and President, FOCUS Management, Strategy Execution Specialists, Toronto. He can be reached at 905 945-0782  or


About the Author

Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade

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