1. We’re (still) bad at strategy execution

Massive government IT projects that get bogged down, private sector mergers that never deliver the projected synergies, big restructurings that go off the rails, and cultural change programs that evaporate into thin air. Organizations are full of good intentions, but these intentions often end up paving the proverbial road to hell. This is nothing new. Organizations are notoriously bad at strategy execution. The numbers are shocking. Estimates of the failure rate range from 60 to 90%. Even if we take a highly critical view of these percentages, the failure rate is never less than 50%.

2. We live in times of disruption

The second reason we have to prioritize strategy execution is the disruptive times we live in. I described its characteristics in Het nieuwe normaal [The New Normal]. The main effects are that revenue models are crumbling before our eyes, industries are converging and new organizations—with new revenue models—can wipe out existing companies in one fell swoop. Think of the travel industry, the music industry or manufacturers of rolls of film. Organizations have undergone more change in the first decade of the 21st century than in the last five decades of the 20th century and this rate of change will only go up. A great era for those of us looking for opportunities.

Digitalization is disrupting markets. I’m assuming we’re all familiar with the term VUCA: our world is characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Continuity is no longer a given. Organizations that still want to be in the game in ten or twenty years simply need to get better at improving, renewing and innovating their business model. And public and semipublic organizations are not exempt either. Under intensifying social media pressure, politicians and citizens alike are demanding more transparency, lower costs, better service and greater effectiveness. Getting better at something w’ere bad at, that’s the challenge.

Figure 1 summarizes the facts that show why the new normal is so different. The trend is obvious: continuity is no longer a given, and the most important reason for this is clearly digitalization. In short:

  • The average lifespan of organizations is declinin

  • The turnover in market leadership (topple rate) is increasing

  • The typical product life cycle is getting shorter

  • Companies don’t stay in the S&P 500 for nearly as long

  • The number of bankruptcies of established companies is rising

  • An ever larger share of the profit comes from innovations

  • Innovations’ Time-to-Market is getting shorter

  • The number of patent applications is growing explosively

3. Strategy execution is not optional

Obviously, there are worse problems in the world today. Just take a look at the news. Even so, I am convinced that increasing our effectiveness in strategy execution is a big deal. We spend the better part of our lives working, so it’d better be on something worthwhile. People want their work to be meaningful and have a purpose. Organizations are now deliberately choosing which social values they want to reflect. We are outgrowing our old obsession with shareholder value. What counts now is value in terms of social responsibility, diversity and regional and national development. This ambition has become one of our main strategic goals. Effective strategy execution creates value and the means by which we formulate meaningful objectives.

Natuurlijk zijn er belangrijkere zaken op de wereld, maar de betekenis van het vergroten van onze effectiviteit in strategie-executie is groot. We brengen een groot deel van ons leven werkzaam door. ‘It better be good’. Mensen willen dat wat ze doen een zo groot mogelijke betekenis en nut heeft. Organisaties maken steeds bewustere keuzen over de maatschappelijke waarde die zij willen vertegenwoordigen. We raken steeds verder verwijderd van het aandeelhoudersdenken pur sang. Waarde op het gebied van duurzaamheid, van diversiteit en van het ontwikkelen van regio’s en landen. Deze ambitie wordt onderdeel van de doelen van strategie-executie. Effectieve strategie-executie creëert waarde en concreet dus ook de middelen die steeds vaker aangewend worden voor betekenisvolle doelen.

Improve, Renew and Innovate Faster in the Digital Age.

How can organizations make strategy execution their No.1 priority?
And how can they learn to improve, renew and innovate faster? That’s the topic of the book Strategy = Execution. Based on Turner Consultancy’s research citing 60 organizational leaders, 75 case studies and 300 published sources, which answers the central question: What makes or breaks modern day strategy execution and innovation? 

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