Strategy = Execution

A leader's main task: reduce complexity and cut the work in absorbable pieces. Period

One important factor determining the success of your strategy execution is your ability to avoid creating an indistinguishable mess. Mess, you say? Yes, exactly. Avoid creating a muddle. This means you need to make a clear distinction between realizing the objectives for your existing organizations and realizing new initiatives best run in separate projects. In other words, make sure you distinguish between Running the Business and Changing the Business, as my book Strategy = Execution calls these two management principles.

Suboptimal

Turner’s research has shown that leaders and managers regard strategy execution as their No. 1 priority, but have difficulty grasping the concept. They consider it too broad a term, too “holistic” even. To clarify matters, we need to make a distinction between the going concern and innovation efforts. Making a distinction between Running the Business and Changing the Business is crucial because it simplifies and expedites matters. Failure to make this distinction leads to suboptimal performance on both fronts. In my years as a consultant I have seen plenty of organizations that opted to have their line organization deal with every execution challenge, even though it’s clear that most execution issues require a special focus and approach. The net result was an indistinguishable mess. By separating your change objectives from the going concern, you ensure you can properly manage and control both Running and Changing the Business, as figure 1 shows. In my study, many leaders admitted to having realized too late how important this distinction is.

Not only should we disentangle Running and Changing the Business, we must also distinguish between different Types of Change: Improvement, Renewal and Innovation (figure 2). Failing to make this distinction will once again create an indistinguishable mess. Obviously, every organization needs all three types of change, but also needs to find a way to offer a unique proposition. Every sexy startup that makes it big eventually becomes an established company. Even then, it needs to continue to innovate in order to remain successful. It must keep improving basic processes (Type 1 Change) and renewing its existing models (Type 2 Change).

Figure 1: The distinction between Running and Changing the Business and the Three Types of Change: Improvement, Renewal and Innovation.

Type 1: Improvement

Type 1 Change is about continuous improvement and development of existing revenue and business models, aka “operational excellence” Doing things better every day. That’s how one senior manager described Type 1 Change to me. Although we enjoy a high standard of living in the Western world, it is practically impossible to schedule a repair or a delivery when it suits you best, for instance evenings or weekends. So, there is ample room for improvement. Excelling in Type 1 Change builds credibility with customers and fosters an execution culture within the organization: “change begets change”! That, in turn, fuels Types 2 and 3 Strategy Execution.

Type 2: Renewal

Type 2 Change refers to an overhaul of existing revenue and business models. It’s the kind of change needed when the existing revenue and business model needs to be transformed in order to keep running the business. This may entail drastic measures to cut costs or raise productivity, or leveraging the synergy attained through takeovers, or a rigorous revision of your customer value propositions and service concepts. This type of change nearly always requires a fundamental breakthrough in one of your company’s key performance indicators, a real jump in performance.

Type 3: Innovation

Type 3 Change is all about radical digital innovation, totally new revenue and business models. Aka game changers. That is your best bet to secure the continuity of your organization. Because if you don’t disrupt the market, some other organization will. Thanks to digitalization we live in disruptive times, as I wrote in my previous blog post about my book Strategy = Execution. After all, how do you secure your earnings in a shrinking market when your existing business strongly depends on the commodity effect and profitability is shrinking year after year? No one can survive without innovation, but innovation can only be successful if it is manageable. Lee Iacocca once said, “The most successful leaders hold onto the old for as long as necessary and make the leap to the new as soon as this is the better move.”

Figure 2: Three types of strategy execution: Improvement, Renewal and Innovation.

Bold startups

Amazon once started as a hungry young startup with an innovative business model (Type 3 Change). But now it rigorously improves and renews itself every day (Types 1 and 2 Change). Google and Apple do the same; they make headlines with their new ideas (Type 3 Change), but maintain the stability of their existing product lines and revenue and business models by continually improving and renewing their existing business models (Types 1 and 2 Change). Every organization needs all three types of change. Figure 3 shows the differences in purpose and nature of these types of change.

Figure 3: The three types of strategy execution are fundamentaly different in purpose and nature.

Bron: Turner onderzoek (2016) De drie typologieën verbeteren, vernieuwen en innoveren komen naar voren in de case studies, de interviews en in de bestudeerde literatuur (zie ondermeer Sustaining innovation, Low-end disruption, New-market disruption van Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. En het three horizons framework, zoals omschreven door Steve Coley van McKinsey) in Pijl, J. (2017) Strategie = Executie. p.p. 35 t/m 42. Deventer, Nederland: Vakmedianet.

Strategy = Execution. Improve, Renew and Innovate Faster

How can organizations make strategy execution their number one priority? And improve, renew and innovate faster? This I describe in my book Strategy = Execution. Strategy = execution is based on the research that Turner started years ago into the success factors of strategy execution and innovation. We interviewed 60 directors and professionals and analyzed more than 75 cases, 300 relevant books and articles.

  • More about Jacques Pijl (author) and Turner Consultancy.
  • The most popular interventions based on Strategy = Execution
  • 24 endorsements from organizational leaders
  • American management book of the year 2021, no. 1 in the category of strategic management, in the top 100 bestseller, seventh edition, translated into: English, German, Spanish, Russian and Bahasa.
  • Selection of the most important management books according to CEOs of innovative organizations (FD New Champions). Included in library of classics (mb.nl).
  • Nominated for Management Book of the Year.
  • Countless articles and interviews in FD, Emerce, Frankwatching and CFO.
  • Numerous Ted Talks and in-company workshops at the top 25-50 organizations, average rating 8.7.
  • More about Jacques Pijl (author) and Turner Consultancy
  • The most popular interventions based on Strategy = Execution
  • 24 endorsements from organizational leaders
  • American management book of the year 2021, no. 1 in the category of strategic management, in the top 100 bestseller, seventh edition, translated into: English, German, Spanish, Russian and Indonesian.
  • Selection of the most important management books according to CEOs of innovative organizations (FD New Champions). Included in library of classics (mb.nl).
  • Nominated for Management Book of the Year.
  • Countless articles and interviews in FD, Emerce, Frankwatching and CFO.
  • Numerous Ted Talks and in-company workshops at the top 25-50 organizations, average rating 8.7.

Assignments

Onsverhaal
Alexander Bruinsma

BS&F

The Municipal Insurance is of exceptional societal relevance: this insurance prevents healthcare avoidance among vulnerable residents and thus contributes to preventing additional societal costs. BS&F enlisted Turner to further digitize the application process. The key to Turner’s successful strategy execution: not trying to reinvent the wheel but leveraging available smart IT solutions.

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Onsverhaal
Alexander Bruinsma

Christian Education Group (COG)

The Christian Education Group (COG) is undergoing a challenging educational transformation. The aim is to provide tools for flexibilizing vocational education, enabling students to choose “their own path and destination.” This aligns with the government’s directive for increased flexibility in education.

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Onsverhaal
Alexander Bruinsma

NWB

The Dutch Water Authority Bank (NWB Bank) approached Turner with a specific request: help us become better at change so that we can handle it ourselves in the future. Onno Zwaagstra, along with Martijn Suiker, Turner’s Financial Services Advisor, drafted the plan. They assisted client Bas van Eenige of NWB Bank in its implementation. Now, a year later, there is a department managing the bank’s change portfolio that everyone at NWB Bank is enthusiastic about. The breakthrough in execution came with the choice of a simple and clearly formulated plan: ‘Setting policies without people understanding the necessity is not sustainable.’

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Onsverhaal
Alexander Bruinsma

Liander

In the coming years, Liander will face at least a doubling of energy demand and all aspects related to the energy transition. However, the aftercare of projects ‘outside’ on the streets, was not optimally organized. Gert-Jan van ‘t Klooster, regional manager Amsterdam at the Large Consumption Reconstructions and Networks (GVRN) department, was tasked with streamlining aftercare and enlisted Turner for the execution of the plans.

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Striving for alignment within the chain of command of the line organization is easy. Alignment is more than making sure the chain of command is well-oiled and that people who work at the same level in the vertical chain meet their KPI targets. The challenge is to align horizontally, outside of the chain of command.

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It’s nothing short of our social responsibility to get better at strategy execution,” one CEO told me when I was researching my book Strategy = Execution. That’s strong language, I know, but it does bring home the urgency of this problem. Increasing the speed with which they improve, renew and innovate is the No. 1 challenge organizations face. Why is that? I’ll give you three reasons:

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MT1000

Turner has been ranked No. 1 for three consecutive times in the MT1000, an annual survey of corporate services clients. We rank first in the strategy consulting category and have the highest client satisfaction rating of any consulting firm. In addition, we receive high ratings for client focus, execution and product. What is the story behind this fine achievement?

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Strategy = Execution wins an ‘Oscar’ for management books

Strategy = Execution, the international edition of Jacques Pijl’s bestselling management classic, has been awarded with a no. 1 position by Axiom, a prestigious and leading American Business Book jury and platform. Consultancy.eu writes about this ‘Oscar’ for management books. ​

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