Strategy is Nothing Without Speed


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Some 70% of strategic plans are never executed. To stay competitive, new timeframes and approaches are needed to bridge the gap between strategy and execution.

Part 2 in the Living with Wolves series by Rolf E. Kleiner.

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Strategy is Nothing Without Speed

  1. 1. 2StrategyiS nothingwithout SpeedSome 70% of Strategic planSare never executed. to Staycompetitive, new timeframeSand approacheS are neededto bridge the gap betweenStrategy and execution.rolf e. Kleiner Å
  2. 2. 2 | LIVING AMONG WOLVES: STRATEGY IS NOTHING WITHOUT SPEEDREMEMBER WHEN STRATEGIC PLANS WERE WRITTEN INFIVE- TO 10-YEAR TIME SPANS? Remember when they were closely heldsecrets at the top of corporations, not widely shared internally, and certainly not externally?For all of us, in virtually every industry, those For many large, global organizations, thedays are gone. Commoditized markets have dream of being fast, lean and agile seemssignificantly shortened the business cycle. perpetually out of reach. We know thisNow, every business must: because almost 70% of strategic initiatives are never successfully executed, and a 20101. do more with less Harvard Business Review survey showed that just 37% of readers felt their companies2. innovate more, and more quickly were “very good” or “excellent” at3. be agile and adaptable strategy execution.4. avoid holding on to old paradigms or As the pace of change in the world around us dated thinking increases, and the business cycle contracts, the reality is that strategy is nothing without speed of execution, and most of us are failing that critical test. Ã Å
  3. 3. 3 | LIVING AMONG WOLVES: STRATEGY IS NOTHING WITHOUT SPEEDIDENTIFYING THE BARRIERS. Two key issueshave occupied the minds of CEOs for some time now.1. how do we access the skills and 1. Only select people in the organization talent necessary to drive execution feel that strategy is ‘their job’ – a gap of strategy; and between strategy and execution is created2. how do we effectively collaborate 2. Too few people are engaged in the both internally and externally? strategy from the outsetBoth of these issues— accessing the right 3. The time to write and approve strategiestalent and facilitating effective collaboration— takes too long and erodes execution timehave meant that the accepted practice ofwriting a strategy, getting it approved by the 4. Disengagement from strategy at theCEO and then going about communicating lower levels of an organization leads toand executing it has fundamental flaws. This poor decision-makingtop-down approach means that: Ã Å
  4. 4. 4 | LIVING AMONG WOLVES: STRATEGY IS NOTHING WITHOUT SPEEDMAKING STRATEGY EVERYBODY’S JOB. Cisco isthe best possible model of how a large global business can operate as a‘distributed idea engine’, where leadership emerges organically, unfetteredby central command, and strategy is acted out on a continuous basis.Cisco actively engages large networks business decisions, or to share ideas, and as a large numbers of staff vote on the validity andof staff in boards and councils that have result decisions are made much, much faster. popularity of particular component designs.real decision-making power and financial Not only has this reduced its product offeringresponsibility, as well as their own (sometimes LEGO too has a broad base of decision makers and therefore increased its profitability, it hasunorthodox) tools for collaborating and to execute their strategy—and they learnt to restored the core values of the brand of qualitysharing information. By mobilizing this army of do so the hard way. After unleashing designers and flexibility.some 500-plus employees to play a significant to diversify their product offering to anrole in core decision-making, Cisco is seeing unsustainable 12,000+ items (from 7000 just a Decision-making, including big picturebusiness plans drawn up and executed in few years prior), production costs went through strategic decisions, can no longer be confineda fraction of the time it used to take. This the roof. After the mistake began to take a to the boardroom.radical and less stringent approach to process serious toll on profitability in the mid-2000s,means they no longer rely solely on the senior LEGO realized its error. They have since movedexecutive team and CEO to make major to a broad decision-making model, where à Å
  5. 5. 5 | LIVING AMONG WOLVES: STRATEGY IS NOTHING WITHOUT SPEEDBRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN STRATEGY ANDEXECUTION. No matter how brilliant a strategy may be, if staff do nothave the tools and resources to execute, it will fail.Obvious though that may seem, resourcing is change programs, new technology and remaining competitive, especially when time-consistently ranked as a key issue for staff in innovation are all important internal focuses, sensitive patents are the key to long-termimplementing change. accessing a talent pool that can already profitability. Linking with smaller, more agile deliver what you need is a shortcut many and singular-focused R&D firms to assist withWithout the right people, engaged at the organizations now need, because they simply drug development decreases the time toright time, strategic pace can end up being don’t have the lead-time they used to. market for new treatments considerably.little more than empty activity. Everyone feelsbusy, and perhaps even burdened or burnt The noisy, swiftly changing business Today, there is a clear relationship betweenout, but actual progress is not achieved. This environment we are all operating within speed of execution and being open to theis why HR outsourcing has become a key creates the need for business partnerships external market; of moving from ‘push’ingredient for timely strategic execution. that create instant value. orientation to ‘pull’ orientation, or attracting and then engaging like-minded talent inInternal change and responsiveness to market Think of big pharma – shortening the time organizations.trends is a continual challenge. And while to market for a new drug is essential to à Å
  6. 6. 6 | LIVING AMONG WOLVES: STRATEGY IS NOTHING WITHOUT SPEEDIT IS NOT JUST ABOUT PRODUCTIVITY.Engaging external resources to tap into existing expertiseand innovation is not just about operating leaner.Productivity has been a driver of outsourcing what of your current practices, processes and immense. And as that challenge is overcome,for some time, but it’s not the only one. Being ways of working? another will be hot on its heels. That is whyable to inject new thinking, to help shift old managing talent successfully is a balancing actparadigms and ways of working —and do so This is not to devalue experience and between retaining the right people, ideas andquickly— is also an advantage HR outsourcing history, particularly when it’s possible that processes, and accessing new ones as andcan provide. up to 90% of company knowledge is inside when they’re needed. employees’ heads. It’s true that existingHalf of what college graduates today are talent helps maintain established processes To be among the 30% of business thatstudying will be obsolete by the time they and objectives, but the biggest challenges don’t waste their investment in strategygraduate. The top 10 jobs a decade from and opportunities ahead are ones we don’t development, and which go on to executenow don’t even exist yet. What this means for even understand yet, let alone have the their ideas, getting that balance right in anbusiness is that if current college students are skills or talent pools to overcome. When increasingly competitive landscape could wellnot learning what you will need them to know they do arise, the challenge of retraining, be the key to business 3 or 5 years time (i.e when you hire them), redirecting and retooling existing staff will be à Å
  7. 7. “IF YOU LIVE AMONGWOLVES, YOU NEED TOHOWL LIKE A WOLF”RUSSIAN PROVERBTHIS IS PART 2 OF LIVING AMONG WOLVES, A WHITEPAPER SERIES EXPLORINGTHE FOUR FORCES DRIVING THE UPTAKE OF HR OUTSOURCING.ABOUT THE AUTHORROLF E. KLEINER is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of KellyOutsourcing & Consulting Group. In this role he is responsible for the strategicand structural development of the global business practice of KellyOCG.ABOUT KELLYKelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:  KELYA, KELYB) is a leader in providing workforce solutions.Kelly® offers a comprehensive array of outsourcing and consulting services as well as world-classstaffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire and direct-hire basis.  Serving clients around the globe,Kelly provides employment to more than 530,000 employees annually.  Revenue in 2010 was$5 billion.  Visit and connect with us on Facebook®, LinkedIn®, and Twitter®. Ã EXIT