Where to Start on Your Organization’s Journey to Strategy Execution Success through Strategy Mastery

In a previous blog post I revealed the five essential elements that must be firing on all cylinders if your organization is going to achieve strategy execution success. Here’s a quick reminder of all the elements and how they work together:


Strategy Execution Model

The critical ingredient and most often forgotten element in achieving strategy execution success is Strategy Mastery – employee confidence that they correctly understand the organization’s strategy and, as a direct result, are actively making meaningful contributions to the execution and improvement of the strategy. Strategy Mastery has many components that must ALL be in place if you want to create an organization full of Strategy Masters (which is required if you’re going to maximize your organization’s ability to achieve strategy execution success). Here’s a reminder of the drivers of Strategy Mastery:

Drivers of Strategy Mastery

Each component in the model has several contributing factors. To see an in depth overview of all these factors, check out this blog post.

Looking at everything that goes into creating a compliment of employee Strategy Masters throughout an organization it’s easy to see that it requires a significant investment. And if you want to achieve strategy execution excellence you must also implement the four additional essential elements as well. When you look closely at what it takes to achieve strategy execution excellence it’s no wonder that business leaders can feel overwhelmed. It can be particularly difficult to know where to begin when you’re either starting the journey from scratch or, as is more often the case, when you’re trying to make a change in your organization’s current approach to strategy execution management. Based on my experience working with organizations of all sizes through their journey to strategy execution excellence, here’s my advice about where to focus as you and your organization get started on your journey to strategy execution success through Strategy Mastery.


1 Translate Your Strategy into a Functional Strategy

Most strategic plans I see today have two problems: (1) they are essentially aspirational “to do” lists that aren’t clearly grounded within the organization’s business/value creation model and long-term strategy; and (2) they are written at such a high level that it’s extremely difficult for employees to put it into action with a high level of confidence.

Functional strategy answers some very important implementation questions and shows the key elements in the business that must work together to drive the desired outcomes. It clearly shows how these results drivers do this and identifies which sub-set of results drivers the organization plans to put extra effort on over the upcoming planning period. By depicting the full spectrum of critical results drivers, and their relationships, in an easy to understand format strategy immediately becomes more actionable – it becomes functional! When shown using a tool such as the strategy map, strategy becomes tangible to employees because they can easily see where they fit into the picture through their work, opening up the door for greater individual and team contribution to strategy execution success.

Whether your organization already has a traditional strategic plan in place or you are starting from scratch, take the time (and, if you need it, get help) to translate your strategy into a functional strategy as your first step in this journey.


2 Establish Learning as a Critical Core Value

A focus on learning enables your organization and your employees to take necessary action and risks, and to use knowledge to navigate more dynamically and successfully through these turbulent times. Focusing on learning enables improvement, innovation, and pro-activity – important attributes that all organizations will have to excel at moving forward.

Establishing learning as a core value in your organization must go beyond simply adding it to that list of core values you’ve got posted on the wall around your organization. You’ve got to make learning as an organizational value come alive! That is, you must take action to create and support a learning environment. Three ways you can do this as a leader are to: (1) start asking employees more questions that probe, delve into what has been/can be learned in any situation, and explore how to harness those learnings to make things better, (2) create time for, and set an expectation that, individuals and teams will actively pause for reflection, and (3) communicate the value of learning in moving your organization forward.

By setting these expectations, modelling the desired behavior, and giving managers and employees the supports they need to engage in learning behavior, and to harness the benefits, you will be making valuable inroads into truly instilling learning as a core value in your organization.


3 Invest in Making Collaborative Leadership the Norm in Your Organization

In their new book, Leading with Strategic Thinking,, authors Aaron Olson and Keith Simerson outline what being a collaborative leader means:

A Building relationships and moving beyond transactional work to establish deeper connections with colleagues;

B Listening in an effort to establish a real understanding of others and to avoid interpreting data through their own lens or priorities;

C Finding common interests and seeking out areas of mutual benefit that can create value beyond what individuals can achieve independently;

D Sharing power and giving away their own control while still maintaining clear lines of accountability; and

E Demonstrating trust and seeking ways to extend trust before they ask it of others.

Implementing all of these attributes can represent a big change in leadership style for executives and managers. The best way to start? Talk less, listen more, and ask lots of engaging, open-ended questions (which dovetails with creating a learning culture). And give eager employees the opportunity to run projects their way rather than micro-managing every step they take. Doing just these two things alone will go a long way in shifting leadership styles and will also begin deepening trust and building stronger relationships – key foundations if executives and managers are going to become successful employee coaches and mentors.


4 Start Hiring for Fit

Take the time to get clear on the values, purpose, principles, and motivations of your organization and then build these essentials into your recruitment program and hiring process. From there, start focusing on hiring employees that “fit” with your organization.

Remember – the greater the alignment between an individual’s beliefs, values, purpose, goals, and motivations and those of your organization, the greater the degree of synergy. Synergy is the key to creating employee investment in your organization. And employee investment that’s deep and personal is the critical ingredient in achieving Strategy Mastery (and all its benefits).

While a candidate’s skills and capabilities do matter, a poor employee – organization fit will always translate into the sub-optimization of the results achieved by both the employee and your organization, and the experience and happiness of everyone involved. Most HR experts agree that hiring for fit, and creating a hiring approach that builds screening for fit systematically into the process, is today’s best practice standard for ensuring organizational and employee success.


Beginning your organization’s journey to Strategy Mastery success with these four critical elements will keep you and your team busy for a while. It will take time and resources but the investment is absolutely worth it. By starting here you will be establishing a solid foundation for creating an entire cadre of employee Strategy Masters, and you’ll be setting your organization up to achieve that elusive goal that most organizations struggle to realize – strategy execution excellence.