If you consider all the successful companies around us, none of them is successful for just one reason. Successful strategic execution depends on a system of interrelated and interdependent factors, according to Scott A. Snell, E. Thayer Bigelow Research professor in business administration, at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in the US.
From establishing a clear strategic intent to raising shared expectation, Professor Snell believes there are lessons every company stands to learn.
In an interview with Mint, Snell, who has co-authored Strategic Execution, talks about the 4As of strategic execution and how collaboration is affecting the modern office. Edited excerpts:
In ‘Strategic Execution’, you speak about a four-part model for executing strategy. Can it be applied by any company?
Strategy is a plan until it is actualized. The greatest challenge of chief executives and top management teams is helping their organizations execute better. Strategy alone does not determine top versus bottom performance in an industry; it is execution that is key.
Four primary factors determine execution excellence. The more we engage with companies on their own execution journeys, the more our work has zeroed in on these four factors. Where companies have problems, these are the most troublesome areas. When they achieve performance breakthroughs, these are the areas that drive improvement. We refer to them as the 4 As: Alignment, Ability, Architecture and Agility.
The 4A framework can help you see your business through the lens of execution requirements and how it can serve as a platform for engaging others in important discussions to prioritize action and intervention. This framework is especially important as companies grow and evolve. The practices may change, but the principles remain the same.
Could you share some tips on how leaders can learn and apply these four steps in their job?
Alignment is key for leaders. Alignment conveys the deceptively simple notion that execution depends on everyone working together toward the same goal. As a leader, it is very important that they bring the teams together. Teams come together when communication flows, when various departments understand the other jobs and trust is created. A good example of this is Microsoft. Each week the CEO leads a 4-hour meeting with his executives. The executives then follow and hold meetings with their teams. This keeps the teams aligned and focuses on teamwork and collaboration.
A second tip is, don’t ever let talent trump teamwork. As important as talent is for success, if you’re a leader who just gets the most talented people on their team, but they don’t work together, then they will fail.
Collaborations have been important in the workplace. But has its significance changed in the present scenario of startups and a more mobile workforce?
The traditional organization where all the work is done within the boundaries of an organization, that traditional sort of hierarchical model is decaying. It’s transforming to something that’s much more of an open network form of organization. As a whole, organizations are getting flatter. This makes collaboration even more important. As well as alignment and agility. By implementing the 4As framework, leaders can prioritize the key areas of focus for the business.
The challenge of keeping employees motivated and engaged has reached a new dimension as far as gig economy is concerned. How does one still build a workforce where everyone has a shared goal?
Whether the company and its employees are confined to one building or spread out among several areas and regions, the core principals of communication and collaboration are equally essential.
With tools like Slack and Zoom, leaders have the ability to communicate with their teams regularly to collaborate and build out shared goals.