logo image

ATD Blog

Can We Eliminate the Strategy Execution Gap?


Wed Aug 19 2015

Can We Eliminate the Strategy Execution Gap?-1853dc34ac8f4f7ff90d6a5af38ded420ff03b7d5c9b4b9f7331e97d60d4a403

In corporate circles, strategic planning and strategy execution are commonly identified as two separate endeavors; one is built in the boardroom, the other is completed at the ground floor. Leaders routinely express frustration about what is termed the “strategic execution gap”—how the ground floor rarely executes the strategy they smoothly or as it was intended. 

At the ground level, where the strategy is rolled out to clients and partners, employees complain that most strategies are vague, unactionable, or altogether misdirected. The result is strategic stagnation and lost opportunities to gain market share. While there are a host of proposed approaches to minimize the strategy execution gap, the best method may be to eliminate it all together. In other words, let’s make strategic planning and execution a concretely connected endeavor by using a business process management (BPM) toolset. 


Understanding BPM 

Every organization is comprised of a network of processes that collectively work to deliver a number of saleable outputs. This process system is the actualization of the organization’s strategy—the unique way it attempts to deliver value for a customer while simultaneously generating financial returns for the organization. 

But the system is rarely optimized or functions as intended. Significant parts of the organization may underperform, and in the worst cases, they may even destroy value on a daily basis. Taming this turmoil—and aligning it to the organization’s strategic plan—is perhaps the greatest opportunity for the strategically impaired organization. 

Historically, BPM has aimed to improve some enterprise function by reducing costs, improving quality, expanding throughput, or achieving another operational goal. At its base level, every strategic undertaking can be broken down into a collection of process adjustments. You can fundamentally alter any product or service through the use of new inputs or by adjusting its manufacturing process. 

Additionally, organizations can improve the customer experience by developing new delivery options or by launching new shopping channels. Any one of these improvements can be defined as a set of process improvement activities. By completing these adjustments, you can develop the capabilities to execute the strategy.   

Case in Point 

A large retailer wants to launch a new banner to serve an upscale customer group. The strategy defines process adjustments to roll out the new banner. Here’s the breakdown: 

  • Strategic planning: analyze customers and competitors and develop superior value proposition.

  • Store development: produce blueprints with store layout supporting new concept.

  • Marketing: build brand, brand strategy, visual elements, and core messages.

  • IT: develop website to promote concept.

  • Merchandising: identify and purchase products to fill store.

  • Supply chain: analyze and develop inventory plan including distribution routes for new stores. 

Benefits of BPM 

A major benefit of using BPM is the ability to define strategic initiatives with an increased level of clarity and precision. As you create the strategy, they also identify the specific processes affected by the initiative, as well as the intended outputs of these processes. 

On occasion, though, a process might not exist to produce the desired outcome. You can remedy this situation by noting the potential processes and the intended outputs of the new process. In this way, you can identify all the requisite processes to execute the strategy. As a consequence of this description of a strategy, you also can simultaneously identify the departments or specific individuals the strategy execution must engage. 

A second equally beneficial outcome is that the organization forges a link between the strategic intent and strategy execution. Assuming the strategy is correctly set, its success is predicated on fundamentally altering how employees perform work—that is, the processes they execute on a daily basis. For once, strategy and execution are intertwined, as they should be. 

Preparing for BPM 

Injecting BPM into strategic planning requires some prework. Strategists still focus on the customer wants and needs as well as the competition’s actions, but now they frame strategic initiatives in process adjustment terms. This requires basic process management skills and an understanding of the process structure and its capabilities to produce specific products and services. This information forms the background to plot strategic moves as process adjustments, as well as reap the benefits. 

Many leadership teams are not prepared to operate at a process level. Fortunately, most organizations have Lean and Six Sigma experts who not only have the experience and knowledge to help, but they are willing to apply a process-based model to strategy execution.  What’s more, because these process experts are skilled at teaching process tools to ground-level performers, they are a built-in set of trainers. Next, training simply needs to formalize a learning curriculum. The potential benefits of doing so are immense. 


Bottom Line 

Once your organization deploys a BPM approach to strategic planning and execution, the leadership team gains power steering—the ability to strategically direct the organization with precision and flexibility. In a highly competitive market, such strategic nimbleness is often determines which companies gain (or lose!) market share.

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy