What Drives Strategy Mastery?

In my last blog post I introduced the most essential ingredient for strategy execution success: Strategy Mastery.   Here’s a quick reminder of what Strategy Mastery is and what it looks like in action:

Strategy Mastery

Every employee in your organization must be a Strategy Master. That is, they need to know what your strategy story is and they must be confident in (1) that knowledge (i.e. that they have the strategy story right) and (2) their contribution to the strategy. Strategy Mastery is important because it drives self-motivated engagement and confident employee action, decision-making, and contribution to strategy improvement, greater organizational alignment, and more integrated business performance. All of which are essential for strategy execution success.

Creating employees who are Strategy Masters requires significant organizational investment. Organizations that succeed create the right environment and culture and put the right supports in place to develop and nurture a cadre of Strategy Masters across their company.

Let’s take a closer look at how these elements work to enable Strategy Mastery.

Drivers of Strategy Mastery


Strategy Mastery  is built on a foundation that successfully combines three critical components: (1) a Learning Culture, (2) a “Doing” Environment, and (3) Coaching and Mentorship.

1 A Learning Culture: A key core value of every organization that is successful in creating Strategy Masters is learning. A focus on learning enables an organization and its employees to take necessary action and risks, and to use knowledge to navigate more dynamically and successfully through these turbulent times. Enabling the value of learning is a commitment to openness and transparency across the entire organization. These important co-requisites open the door for learning by setting the stage for the safe two-way exchange of knowledge, insights, and best practices. When leveraged in a “doing” environment, learning accelerates the pace of strategy execution and results achievement for an organization.

2 A “Doing” Environment: Strategy Mastery requires a work environment that displays a bias for deliberate action. However, this doesn’t mean that thinking goes out the window. What it does mean is that thinking progresses rapidly to decisions which are followed by action. A “doing” environment is also pro-active in nature, taking action on what it takes to move the strategy, and the organization, forward as planned.

However, setting an expectation for an action orientation across an organization isn’t enough – it’s got to be backed up by organizational commitment to providing customized and appropriate support to individual employees AND a dedication on the part of leadership to providing the learning opportunities and feedback employees need to fine-tune and/or re-focus their actions and efforts (individually and as part of the organization).

3 Coaching and Mentorship: Developing employees into Strategy Masters must be tackled both at the organizational level and by Managers and Supervisors working one on one with employees. Set in a culture that values a collaborative leadership approach that’s focused on engaging employees in the co-development and execution of organizational strategy, Managers spend time sharing the vision for Strategy Mastery with employees and providing them with opportunities to practice Strategy Mastery every day. By acting as coaches and mentors to their employees, Managers and Supervisors help all employees develop into Strategy Masters through a “learn by doing” approach. Taking this approach also allows everyone to benefit from the insights employees generate and share as they practice the craft of Strategy Mastery.     

Strategy Mastery 3


With this foundation in place, an organization has the positive environment in place that’s required to enable employees to translate knowledge of the organization’s strategy into action. However, this transformation doesn’t happen by magic – it requires two critical elements: (1) accurate and useable strategic knowledge, and (2) the development of the individual skills and capabilities required to take that knowledge and put it into action.

1 Knowledge Transfer and Translation: Once an organization’s high level strategy has been transformed into Functional Strategy, it’s time to take the next step: doing whatever it takes to make sure that the organization’s strategy is alive and active in the hearts and minds of every employee. This is often done through strategy communication town halls and other communication venues that usually share strategy from the organizational perspective. While this is a necessary first step, organizations seeking to create Strategy Masters must go further. Managers and Supervisors must repeat the strategy story and then engage employees in discovering and understanding the following:

  • What our strategy is, what it looks like in action, and my part in it.
  • How our team, and me as an individual, contribute to it every day.
  • How I think I can contribute (expressed in my own words) and, as I understand our strategy better and practice working with it, how I KNOW I can contribute.

As employees talk about and develop a clear line of sight on these important topics, knowledge transfer and translation is taking place across the organization. Progress is made when employees understand organizational strategy AND can see themselves putting it into action in a meaningful way.

2 Individual Skills and Capabilities Building: While seeing oneself putting strategy into action is a necessary step in the journey to Strategy Mastery, there’s often an execution gap. While employees are willing they may not be able. It’s not that they don’t want to take action, it’s that they may need new or more highly developed skills to do it. As a result, an important part of successfully translating knowledge of the organization’s strategy into action involves helping individual employees build the skills, capabilities, and confidence they need to make their contribution AND achieve their personal potential. It turns out that having many opportunities to apply and practice putting knowledge into action goes a long way to building employees’ confidence in their knowledge and abilities. Knowledge confidence stokes more confident action and decision-making – a key attribute of Strategy Mastery that ultimately accelerates strategy execution success.

The good news is that traditional training programs aren’t the only way to achieve this goal. Coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, special project assignments, and job rotations are all excellent ways to help employees acquire the skills and capabilities they want and need.

Strategy Mastery 4


When individual employees are able to effectively translate knowledge of their organization’s strategy into action they are well on the road to becoming Strategy Masters. However, there’s one additional ingredient that’s required to make the leap to Strategy Mastery status: Individualization and Internalization. Composed of two elements (1) individual motivation – organizational motivation alignment and (2) strategy ownership and intrinsic accountability, individualization and internalization deepens an employee’s understanding of, and impact on, the organization’s strategy execution efforts, and the strategy itself.

1 Individual Motivation – Organizational Motivation Alignment: Quite simply, the greater the alignment between an individual’s beliefs, values, purpose, goals, and motivations and those of the organization, the greater the degree of synergy. Why this focus on synergy? Synergy is the key to creating employee investment in an organization. And employee investment that’s deep and personal is the critical ingredient in achieving Strategy Mastery (and its benefits).

To maximize synergy, organizations should pay attention to the employee-organization fit during the hiring process. “Hiring for fit” involves assessing the resonance between an individual’s beliefs, etc. and those of the organization. Hiring people who fit makes synergy a more natural outcome. However, the opportunities don’t stop there. The investments organizations make in the ongoing development of employees is important and the greater the degree of alignment between the development of the job skills and capabilities required to serve company needs and objectives, and the personal goals and objectives of individual employees, the deeper the synergy that’s created.

2 Strategy Ownership and Intrinsic Accountability: This is the final link between putting knowledge of the strategy into action and achieving Strategy Mastery. Strategy ownership, and the development of intrinsic motivation and accountability for successful strategy execution, occurs when employees see themselves as co-owners of the organization’s strategy, experiencing a state of personal ownership for, and investment in, the achievement of the organization’s mission. When strategy ownership is truly felt, employees take personal, internally driven accountability for doing their part in, and discovering new ways of, putting organizational strategy into action.

When employees are invested this deeply, the organization’s success and their personal success are virtually one in the same, making every employee’s commitment to ensuring successful strategy execution personal and driven genuinely from the inside.

While it’s true that employees can be motivated extrinsically with rewards to translate knowledge of the organization’s strategy into action, the level of strategy execution success an organization achieves will be sub-optimal (AND it will take a lot of effort to achieve this result). In contrast, by just stretching a little further to nurture Strategy Mastery  in every employee, organizations can harness the creativity and drive of everyone to achieve greater levels of strategy execution success than they ever could have envisioned.

Strategy Mastery 5


Going back to thinking about the strategy execution model presented in my last blog post, here’s a picture that shows how the other elements in the model enable Strategy Mastery to drive strategy execution success:

Strategy Mastery 2


While much of what goes into producing Strategy Mastery  isn’t “rocket science” it’s important to lay out all of the contributing drivers in one view and discuss how they work together to produce the organizational element that is most critical to ensuring strategy execution success – Strategy Mastery. Until you put all the drivers together on one page, it’s easy to forget that (1) they must all be in place, and (2) must work together cohesively if you hope to create an organization full of Strategy Masters.

The biggest barriers in the journey to Strategy Mastery success include the fact that it takes: a cross-functional view of organizational activities, a commitment to work together in all corners of the organization, and an investment in supporting the elements that produce Strategy Mastery results.

There’s a lot to do and most organizations struggle to get all of the required drivers in place working just right.

So where should you and your organization start on this journey to strategy execution success through Strategy Mastery? In my next blog post I’ll offer you a prioritized roadmap for putting this plan for strategy execution success to work in your organization.