Strategy or Execution?

That may seem like a simplistic question with an obvious answer, but I wonder what the answers would be if we knew we were free to speak our minds on how strategy is developed, communicated and implemented in our own organizations.

I suspect many FM’s would say that they are on the lag side of the strategy equation.  Someone else formulates the strategy, hands it off to business units, each of which then does their best to align operations and initiatives with the new strategy.  That’s fine as far as it goes.  What it lacks, however, is cohesive and coordinated integration that recognizes and accommodates interdependencies between units.  For example, an organization may have a strategy to improve its competitive position by increasing efficiency and lowering operating costs.  That all sounds good, right?  But what if IT’s response is to change its technology strategy to focus on cloud migration, while FM decides to invest in energy consumption efficiency?  Are those two mutually exclusive?  No, they are not; but taken independently they present an opportunity for poor investment decisions, execution, and timing.  To be successful, they must be properly shaped, communicated and coordinated. 

Roger Martin makes a strong case that not linking strategy and execution is a sure way to make failure a certainty.  His point is that once strategy is decided upon it cannot just be delegated to others to execute.  He prefers instead a model he refers to as a “Cascade of Choices” which links the two elements to create a holistic or “virtuous strategy cycle.”  This model suggests shifting some decision making (choices) to lower levels as a way of broadening and deepening a strategy’s reach into an organization.  It also helps make strategy meaningful to front line staff, a shortcoming that has sunk more than one strategy ship.

If you asked most of us we would say that the biggest obstacles we face include not having enough resources, lack of a clear strategy, and conflicting priorities.  Strategy and implementation plans that are properly coordinated address all three of our biggest challenges.  

Said another way, creating and developing a strategy is the easy part.  Its success will be determined by the organization’s ability to morph resources and priorities, and to sustain energy and focus; supporting those things that help strategy execution succeed and not supporting those things that work against it – even if they are long held favorites.

As FM’s we are in direct control of a very large portion of organizational assets.  What we do and how well we do it makes a big difference at the strategic level.  Ask yourself if you have the voice you need to effectively contribute to the strategy discussion and whether you are participating in the alignment and coordination dialogue, or simply taking a series of notes on a new “To Do” pad. FM should be a thought leader within the organization, not just a bunch of folks working hard to get through today’s set of tasks.  Your organization needs you to lead and, oh by the way … so do you.

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