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BW Businessworld

A Plan To Move Ahead

No organisation can grow in isolation. It takes different people with a variety of skills to come together and deliver an organisation’s strategic intent

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In layman’s terms, strategy is nothing but a visionary plan of action formulated keeping in mind an organisation’s mission and philosophy. Like an individual, an organisation too has its own set of unique values, culture and philosophy. However, many organisations may have a similar outlook. What makes them different and successful is their unique, well-executed strategy.

Paul Leinwand is global managing director, Capabilities-Driven Strategy and Growth, at Strategy &, PwC’s strategy consulting business, and Cesare Mainardi is former CEO of Booz & Company and Strategy&. In the book Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap, Leinwand and Mainardi tell us how some of the best known organisations successfully connect their strategy to execution using a generic five-point to-do tactics along with a collection of practical exercises.

No organisation can grow in isolation. It takes many people with a variety of skills and specialties to come together, build and deliver an organisation’s strategic intent. The book offers case studies of high performing organisations from various sectors to elucidate this point. What makes it interesting though is that these examples are from companies spread across various geographies, offering insights and learnings from a diverse background so that readers across the globe can relate to them. Citing examples of firms like Sweden-based home furnishing brand Ikea, the US-based Apple, consumer electronics multinational Haier from China, CEMEX (the Mexican cement company), etc., the book highlights how great companies sustain high performance and stay great.

Successful organisations create strategies that are executable and also help them take advantage in crisis situations. This is quite similar to the approach mentioned in some other landmark books about strategy such as James Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr.’s In Search of Excellence and Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now.

Drawing on and building from the success stories of organisations that have engineered a working culture of boosting performance while managing costs, this book offers a holistic vision as guidelines for other companies, and does not merely dwell on strategy.

Unlike books such as Sun Tsu’s Art of War and Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy that stress on the understanding of the competition to position a firm’s strategy; this book stresses on committing to one’s identity and building distinctive capabilities accordingly. It is very unlikely that an organisation will have strong expertise in every area; hence it is important to differentiate and grow by being clear on what you can do best with your strengths, instead of chasing growth wherever it may occur.

While organisations may come up with great strategies, more often than not, they struggle to execute ideas into action plans that enable the strategy to be successfully implemented and sustained. While the book emphasises on the importance of translating strategies into daily action points, the examples do not truly bring alive how this can be done. According to me, this is the most critical area for an organisation’s success and I believe that this is a weakness in this otherwise excellent book.

Overall, the authors have done a commendable job in furnishing a readable and compelling framework that can help leaders develop a coherent and effective strategic vision. Using tangible examples, it presents the transformational journey that companies across all industries have undergone to remain successful and relevant in the 21st century. Companies that close the strategy-to-execution gap can move on to become the super competitors of our time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Sundar Mahalingam

Mahalingam is chief strategy officer at HCL Corporation and Shiv Nadar Foundation

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