The prevalent uncertain nature of the business domain means that the role of strategies has become more critical for the businesses than ever before. However, merely having a robust strategy is insufficient. The formulation of a strategy is intrinsically linked to the actual execution of it. This is where the role and responsibility of the C-suite come into play. Business strategy is typically a dynamic force which continuously searches for relevant opportunities, identifies the initiatives which is worth capitalizing on, followed by swift and efficient completion of the initiatives.
Need for Greater Focus on Execution
There is a growing belief that successful implementation of strategies has the capability to provide a vital edge in the increasingly competitive market. Although it may be perceived to be counterintuitive, there is a general consensus among the executives higher up in the hierarchy of the top companies around the world, that implementation or execution of a strategy is slightly more important than the formulation of it. Thus, a strategy should not be built with the hope that it brings results, rather, there should be a logical plan set in place to achieve results. Despite, its massive significance, implementation of strategy in a business environment is yet to receive its due focus. Thus, there is a need for clear demarcation of the responsibilities of the C-suite. This is where many modern companies have experienced shortcomings.
Present C-Suite Involvement
Leadership buy-in and support are two of the most critical elements in the successful implementation of strategic initiatives. Surprisingly, at present, the engagement of the C-Suite in strategy implementation is limited in many of the organisations. Another common trend is that in many cases it has been noticed that the initiatives aimed towards putting the strategy into place often do not receive necessary sponsorship from the senior-level. The involvement of the C-suite is essential because in many cases, the management tends to build a strategy solely from a theoretical perspective, without factoring in practical issues like budgetary constraints and operational complexity. Presently, the C-suite employs a fire and forget type of an approach when it comes to strategy implementation.
Areas Which Needs Greater Attention
The strategy and business activity alignment can be drastically improved with a change in the approach or personnel of C-suite or leadership activities. Although at this moment the precise areas which could make the most difference are still not clear, some areas which could definitely do with more attention include prioritization and resource allocation. In this arena, the allocation process of the resources should be aligned with the intent of the strategy.
There is also a need for greater involvement of the C-suit in defining strategy, and the important projects related to it. Their responsibility should also include making key decisions and action plans regarding the structure and the process of implementation. They must concentrate on the various demands of the specific strategy and its implications on the overall organisational structure, requirements on coordination and the requisite talent required for successful execution of the strategy. Apart from these, the C-suite must also play an active role in demarcating the priorities of the company and ensure accountability and transparency, to an effect that the entire organisation is clear about it.
Necessary Skills and Processes
The corporate level executives should not be overly involved in the implementation of strategies. Only those who have the requisite skills should play a role at this level. Skilled execution is vital to the success of various initiatives of the company. Unfortunately, today there is glaring insufficiencies in this regard. One of the biggest cause for concern is the lack of change-management skills. Poor resourcing is another area which needs significant improvement. Finding skilled personnel and resources for strategy implementation is not an easy task.
Judicious management of resources like people, funds and time is required to make up for this. Priority must be set in terms of resources. At times sacrificing or de-prioritizing resource can be healthy for the organisation, even if it may seem like a difficult choice. The skill related issues should be should be inherently integrated into the strategy. The integration should be on the basis of capabilities available within the business while keeping in mind the drawbacks and addressing them competently.
Only a fraction of the companies are actively addressing the issue of skill by hiring people who have leadership talent or other skills required to drive execution of strategy. Those companies who have these elements, as top priority or relatively higher in the pecking order are already performing better at the share market, compared to those companies which have put them as low priority.
The dearth of formal processes in the management of strategic initiatives is another thing which needs significant attention. Formal processes like project management and strategic scorecard etc. is a necessity. These processes can streamline controls, learnings and feedback. This too points to the role of the C-suite. They should look to build suitable reporting requirements and incentives to develop a culture which encourages the effective execution of strategies.
It is evident that senior executives acknowledge that strategy execution is fundamental to the company. Yet, they generally admit to lack of performance in this section. Moreover, the C-suite often tend to turn a blind eye to it and fail to provide the necessary resources, attention and priority. In order to improve the situation there is a need for an overall change in the approach, stemming from the C-suite itself. They need to start off by giving greater attention to the implementation of the strategy and focus on the correct activities in the right areas. Their role also involves allocation of resources on the basis of prioritization of the initiatives undertaken. Integration of the strategy formulation with implementation is also critical to success.
Lastly, there is a need for a realization that the C-suite cannot do everything on its own. For this purpose, there is a need to develop the necessary skills throughout the organisation. Overall, it should be given the level of attention that it truly deserves, as the success or failure of many ground-breaking strategies depends on its implementation.