Key takeaways

  • Many companies had a vision of where they wanted to be in 2020, but now is the time to check it’s on track.
  • Viewing past objectives in a current context – such as the competitive, regulatory, customer and technological landscapes – will provide insight into whether strategies need to be reworked.
  • No change will be successful if it doesn’t have people at its heart, keeping this a priority will help close the strategy-to-execution gap.

Five years ago we spent a lot of time working with businesses on their 2020 vision and supporting strategies to get them there. Depending on the company, we first worked to define what sort of organisation they wanted to be – whether it was one led by culture, capabilities, offerings, customer, size, market or profitability.

Five years is a decent stretch of time to materially change an organisation, but boy does it fly. Rather than waiting for the 2020 deadline to measure achievements against vision, why not take stock in 2019? It’s an opportune time to review not only your progress and ensure that your targets remain relevant.

Ideally, you’ll already be measuring progress quarterly to ensure the business direction is still clear. But realistically, not every organisation has the processes or resources in place to do this. That shouldn’t be cause for alarm however: some early reflection this year will provide plenty of opportunity to avoid disappointment in the next.

When undertaking any sort of review it’s important to take a positive approach – the purpose is to check assumptions and resource allocation, not to reenact the Spanish Inquisition. Here are four steps to ensure the beginning of the new decade brings cause to celebrate.

1. Check your
foundations

Undoubtedly, there will have been a collection of assumptions you made when you were putting your 2020 vision together. These may have included your company’s economic health, the competitor landscape, consumer demand, international markets or competitor strengths.

Now is a good time to see what has shifted and to check you’re not embracing old assumptions (or new ones). For example, the price and utility of technology can shift rapidly. Are you making assumptions about what is feasible? Similarly, your competitors won’t have been sitting on the sidelines these past years – is your competitive differentiation still current?

2. Revise your targets
(and check your measures)

A lot can happen in five years and the success of your strategy will depend on the environment you’re operating in – including competitors, consumers, technology and regulation. Make sure you’re still pointed in the right direction and that your key transformation programs will lead to overall success.

If you’ve lost your way, then be clear on your focus for the year ahead. Hopefully you have baked in some monitoring and measurement and know what benefits are being delivered and when, such as customers acquired, costs reduced, and time saved.

Next, check in on your KPIs. Are they still the right ones? Tracking relevant results continually enables a company to surface inaccurate assumptions, reset plans and reallocate resources for better execution. Ultimately, if you successfully deliver on your plans, and KPIs, then you should be on track to meet your 2020 vision (and perhaps creates an opportunity to attempt something more ambitious).

Track real-time results against your plan, resetting assumptions and reallocating resources as needed. You’ll remedy flaws in your plan and its execution – plus avoid confusing the two.

3. Redeploy resources
early

The key to delivering good strategies is to point the right people at the right problems in the right order. Sounds simple, but the projects and priority order will change depending on the relative successes of different teams and initiatives.

On a regular basis, you should be reviewing your projects and programmes to check on progress. You should also be testing your projects to make sure they continue to make sense. Will they still be appreciated? Will they fix the issue they were designed to solve? Will you be able to successfully deliver?

When businesses talk about failing fast this is what they mean. If, during project delivery, it becomes clear a project won’t succeed as designed then call it out early. Either redesign the work or repurpose the resource.

Running organisational change programs requires clear visibility of progress across your transformation programme. When well-intended projects start to fail you needn’t wait until they fall over completely; again, they can be repurposed into something more useful.

4. Get good
at execution

All of these points are irrelevant if you’re not getting things done. Change is hard, even in organisations where everyone agrees on what needs to happen. Make sure you understand how you’ll know when change has been effected. If your strategy requires increased collaboration and less siloed thinking, what is the evidence you’re looking for that will reflect this?

Remember the prize for closing the ‘strategy to execution gap’ is big. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, getting this right can bring about an increase in performance of anywhere from 60-100%.1

Not only that, companies that can link their vision, strategy, plans and performance often benefit from a wealth of other dividends. These include more motivated teams, more confident leaders and eventually, will lead to more ambitious stretch targets and better performance.

No strategy is better than the people who implement it. Make sure you’re giving credit where it’s due and openly celebrating successes along the way. Make this a habit – it’s a fantastic organisational muscle to build.

The flowers may not be blooming yet but it’s never too early for spring cleaning.

 

Contributor

Andrew Jamieson

Andrew Jamieson is PwC New Zealand’s digital strategy lead.

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