Misunderstanding is a workplace epidemic, and the key to escaping a misunderstanding of strategy and execution is to require everyone to stop throwing around meaningless terms.
“What others do and how it is done should be challenged, explained, and reiterated at all levels of the organization,” said Theresa Ashby, MBA, PhD, author of the book Better Implementation Now!: Eight Ways Great Strategies Fail and How to Fix Them (2019, Indie Books International).
Ashby is the CEO of Strategic Implementation Solutions and serves as a leader with the National Association of Women Business Owners. Over the course of her 30-year career she has held many leadership roles, overseeing multi-million-dollar budgets and $1.7 billion in capital improvements.
“What kills great strategy? A lack of implementation planning,” she said. “As the business adage states, successful companies work on processes versus projects. Otherwise seemingly urgent work gets in the way of the real work needed to move strategy forward.”
According to Ashby, egos must be removed and there should be no more attitude of, “we get it, so why don’t they?” or, “why should we need to define it?” and definitely no more, “they are the issue, not me.”
“Understanding and defining the type of strategy is the first step in understanding the quagmire of terms,” says Ashby. “Organizational leaders need to decipher unclear terms, get clear on what they mean for their organization, and address the process with clarity.”
Here are Ashby’s top ten ways to avoid misunderstandings that impede proper execution of strategy:
- Those identified as strategic need to make sure that those doing the work are correctly
aligned and doing the right tactical work.
- An organization needs to be very clear on how, when, and why it uses the term strategy
and implementation (or execution).
- Define the term strategy and implementation as it is expected to be interpreted within
- Stop identifying yourself or others as a strategic thinker and instead reinterpret it as
someone who is a definer of strategy or an implementer of strategy.
- Get out of the head-and-heart state of mind, roll up your sleeves, and be laser focused on
what is important.
- Study the state of the organization and create implementable plans that work.
- Be comfortable with uncertainty and know ahead of time that a certain amount of anxiety
is part of the process, no matter how well-defined the plan may be.
- Embrace misunderstandings since they can eventually lead to more clarity.
- Slow down to speed up when it comes to explaining and communicating both terms and
the expected outcomes.
- Explicitly explain the WIFM – What’s in it for me.
Ashby adds that understanding and defining the organizational life cycle helps in explaining the state of the organization, why decisions are made, and how to accept the sensations of frenzy, frustration, or failure that may arise.