Defined a Strategy, this must be realized. A Business Plan should contain both the description of the Strategy and its Plan to put it into practice. The Execution, however, can not be contracted out, it is the same organization that must take charge as the Strategy concerns the change of its own way of operating. Using the title metaphor, if I decide to move faster thanks to the bicycle, I have to figure out how to use it: no one else can learn for me!
Unfortunately the organization is not available for any activity you want to perform. It was established to carry out the daily operations that are the reason for the very existence of the Company. This involves a series of difficulties that underlie the complexity of Strategy Execution and that must be addressed to prevent its slowdown or, worse, its failure.
Learning to ride a bike while walking
The organization cannot stop to learn to do something else, even if it will lead to doing better. Operations must proceed in continuity, you can not stop them. This means that “cycling”, as prescribed by Strategy Execution, must be learned “while walking”. The activities prescribed by the Plan will then be in addition, for those involved, to the daily ones, creating a burden that is not always predictable or resolvable with organizational adjustments (new positions, delegation of tasks, etc.). Time is neither compressible nor extendable and therefore should be used to the fullest. As demonstrated in other activities of the Company, the support of Information Systems is vital to make order in activities and allow individual members of the organization to be more productive or, in other words, better manage their time.
Cycling together: the problem of the “Silos”
The company organization has evolved into specialized departments in specific functions, also assuming significant dimensions. The need for this development is based on valid reasons:
- aggregate experiences and skills, to focus and create critical mass on key competences;
- assign responsibilities, which provide boundaries to the hierarchy and delimit areas of activity to create greater efficiency;
- provide a sense of identity, which creates stability and allows the development of collective behavioral norms, psychological security and predictability of people.
- Unfortunately, alongside these, negative phenomena have developed, which have inspired the name Silos given to organizational divisions:
- narrow mindset,
- difficulties of sharing and collaboration between vertical divisions,
- wars of position and mutual accusations.
It is evident that these elements can be strong inhibitors to the activities of Strategy Execution. The first temptation could be to “bring down” the Silos, but in doing so they would lose the benefits for which they were constituted. Moreover, the sense of identity they provide is the main, if not the only, cause of that resistance to change that complains in the execution of the Strategy and that is generally attributed to vague and poorly founded psychological motivations.
The Strategy Execution is an activity that demands the involvement of people of various parts of the organization, therefore also of various Silos. There is then the need to create a sort of organization “parallel”, or “superior”, to the institutional one in which these people converge, without leaving theirs, for the sole purpose of executing the Strategy: a Meta-Organization. This Meta-Organization, which will last for the duration of the Execution, needs to be recognized by all but also to have a valid support that keeps its activities separate from those of the Silos or the rest of the institutional Organization. Once again an Information System designed to support Strategy Execution is the right tool to give substance to this solution.
Long times, who does what and more: the temptation to abandon everything (and continue “on foot”)
Strategy Execution is a time-consuming process. More dynamic banks could even consider it a permanent activity to better respond to the increasingly frequent changes in the market (hence the increasingly frequent presence of Chief Strategy Officers at the top of the Company). During this period, thanks to the prevalence of daily operation, the temptation to abandon or downgrade to secondary activity (when “you will have time”) is very strong. Moreover, roles and responsibilities could change over time, both with the agreement of all to adapt to new conditions of context, and because you find yourself accepting them without anyone noticing.
Ten months later, who has the right to organize a meeting? On what topics? Who can launch a new initiative or a project? These are just some of the legitimate questions that can arise, and it is already positive that they arise, after a while that Strategy Execution has started. Moreover there is the risk that in order to avoid slowdowns due to these problems, single parts of the company (Silos) could launch in autonomy in initiatives that will turn out very similar or even duplicate.
These, and other difficulties that emerge with the duration of the execution, are real “killers” of Strategy Execution that can slowly, and in a sneaky and hardly recognizable way, lead to its failure. A “persistent” memory of the process is the solution to such problems. Once again it is a dedicated information system designed for this purpose that can provide such a solution and avoid abandoning the “bicycle”, after so many initial efforts.
So we’re talking about a project and a tool to manage it?
It is clear that we are not dealing with the trivial management of a project, or the set of many projects. Strategy Execution certainly consists of projects, but it is not reduced to their simple management. In fact, there are initiatives that are not comparable to a mere project, for example because they are external to the corporate perimeter. It is also necessary, as mentioned before, to give support and “body” to the Meta-Organization constituted for the purpose, defining roles and responsibilities of individual participants. It must then be separated from the operation in communication channels, in budget management but, at the same time, linked to transactional Information Systems to receive key information regarding the performance of operational activities as Strategy Execution activities proceed. And much more to allow the whole company to proceed, finally, better and faster thanks to the use of the “bicycle” defined by the Strategy.