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BW Businessworld

Right(ing) Strategy

Any strategy is as good as its execution, else all that remains is a well-articulated plan which would lead to well-drawn objectives, which would remain on paper, or in fact, in some cases, only in the mind of the leader.

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One wonders whether this is the right time to be writing about strategy for a business. Coming at the heels of a year which had all our strategies and plans stood on their heads and in a year where any respite from the hiatus of last year seems to be unprecedented performance, or so the quarterly trends have shown. It can only get better from here.

Strategy, often used to describe, that which the leadership of an organization concerns itself with and that which is too complicated for the rest of them to decipher, is core of any business- irrespective of size, shape, market, and whatever other dimension it is that one could classify businesses into. But at the core of it, Strategy is simply put- the “how” of what it is an organization wants to achieve. In other words, Strategy is nothing but the “how” of the “what”- the latter being the objectives an organization sets for itself. It is what the organization wants to make happen.

In fact, why even at an organizational level, Strategy in fact is worked at levels of BUs, functions, geographies, and what have you. Again, in any groupings that we decide to run organizations, strategy needs to be happening. It is- at the cost of being repetitive- how one will achieve what one lays out for oneself as the objectives. So, for example, at a functional level, it is about figuring what are the objectives of the function or, to put it simply, what is it that function needs to make happen for the organization to achieve its objectives. Hence, strategy is everyone’s job. Or rather, it is what justifies each and every job in the organization.

In fact, the more that Strategy is alienated from the organization, the more people find it difficult to connect their work with what it is that organizations are headed towards. Organizations spend enormous amounts of time and energy communicating their Strategy and ensuring their people (and stakeholders) understand the same. Well, at least, several of them, who consider it an important cog in the wheel for motivating employees, do it thus. There are of course other organizations, that consider employees no more than ‘resources’, who once told what they need to do , need to focus on delivering stated expectations- no more, no less. These organizations do not worry much about motivation or the value-add that employees may feel. Great places to work they do not make for several of those who would rather be acting as owners than workers.

The best organizations in fact, not only spend time and energy communicating the Strategy that they are executing, they actually involve people in designing the Strategy. So it is not just about getting buy-in for what it is that may have been designed by a group of smart, know-all team members. It is what the teams come up with, working together with their leader, in order to achieve what they set out as objectives for themselves. Thus ownership of Strategy is where one begins, it is what drives its success at the onset- that which is part of every employee’s workplan, and that which is understood by every employee, thus.

The second-most important piece in driving success of any Strategy, is the execution. Any strategy is as good as its execution, else all that remains is a well-articulated plan which would lead to well-drawn objectives, which would remain on paper, or in fact, in some cases, only in the mind of the leader. Which is why the imperative of ownership by people. It is they who will enable achievement of the objectives via execution of the Strategy. And these people, need to know that it is part of their workplan, to be reviewed, monitored and supported upon by all their stakeholders- folks in whose inherent interest lies the achievement of an organization’s objectives.

One has seen several examples of organizations with the right strategies, but failing in execution, and hence in achievement of their objectives, have, at the core an issue with execution being left to the masses. While its important that teams are involved with execution, they need to know that they are supported to make the same happen. Thus, for those who visit strategies once in a blue moon, they do not realize, that as much of their bread and better that lies in the achievement of the monthly target, also lies in the achievement of strategic objectives. After all, targets are nothing but a portion (shorter time frame) of achieving of strategic objectives. Why then should one not keep tying back and consider success at the achievement of strategic objectives as important as the target for the coming month.

In fact, it is this myopic thinking which jolted several businesses as the pandemic hit us. Unable to see the future, and concerned significantly with just short-term gains, the pains were higher for these businesses, compared to those for whom, there was a longer term trajectory which they had set out for themselves. While there is no denying that such inflexions as we faced in the year gone by were unprecedented, those who set their eyes on the horizon, continued undeterred in the face of the challenges presented.

Yes, I agree, coming back to the trajectory which one may have set out for themselves in the beginning of (say) last year, will not be straight forward. In fact, several organizations, may need to design new trajectories or perhaps learn a lesson from those that others may have had the foresight or flexibility to morph into.

Objectives can change and so can Strategy, as long as one has the right people to drive the change and to own it. And that’s the key, ensuring teams have the ownership of Strategy. Once owned, dynamism of Strategy can be driven by the conviction of the leader. At the core one needs to run Strategy like its every one’s job and not the prerogative of the select few in an ivory tower!

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.

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Bhavana Bindra

A graduate of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, Bhavana joined the corporate world starting with Consulting at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), followed by almost 13 years in the Manufacturing & Engineering sector with the US MNC Cummins India Limited. Setting up and running businesses with expertise in the areas of leadership, strategic thinking, sales and marketing, Bhavana believes learning is continuous and experiments worth the time spent. This explains explaining her stint at a start-up in the Data analytics space, as well as her last role in the Chemicals industry as the Managing Director of a Dutch company in India.

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