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Strategic Implementation


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The most successful companies know that formulating and choosing the perfect strategy
does not always guarantee success. A strategy can only be achieved if it is implemented
and managed in a correct fashion.

In this document the author will critically assess the strategic implementation process. The
author will look in detail at the various areas requiring attention when managing strategy
implementation, as well as the traps and obstacles, which so many companies seem to get
stuck in. Models used for implementing change and strategies are also examined.

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Strategic Implementation

  1. 1. 1 Strategic ImplementationSTRATEGICIMPLEMENTATION:Managing StrategyImplementation By Olivia Moran WWW.OLIVIAMORAN.ME
  2. 2. 2 Strategic ImplementationAbout The AuthorOlivia Moran is a leading training specialist who specialises in E-Learning instructional design and isa certified Moodle expert. She has been working as a trainer and course developer for 3 yearsdeveloping and delivery training courses for traditional classroom, blended learning and E-learning.Courses Olivia Moran Has Delivered:● MOS● ECDL● Internet Marketing● Social Media● Google [Getting Irish Businesses Online]● Web Design [FETAC Level 5]● Adobe Dreamweaver● Adobe Flash● MoodleSpecialties:★Moodle [MCCC Moodle Certified Expert]★ E Learning Tools/ Technologies [Commercial & Open Source]★ Microsoft Office Specialist★ Web Design & Online Content Writer★ Adobe Dreamweaver, Flash & Photoshop
  3. 3. 3 Strategic ImplementationStrategy is defined by Newman and Logan (1971:7), as“forward looking plans that anticipate change and initiate actions to take advantage ofopportunities that are integrated into the concept or mission of the company”.Every business wants to build a profitable and sustainable position against thecompetition. Controlling the market in which they operate is what it is all about. Thisobjective is achieved through heavy investment in time, money and effort in a bid toformulate a winning strategy.The most successful companies know that formulating and choosing the perfect strategydoes not always guarantee success. A strategy can only be achieved if it is implementedand managed in a correct fashion.Managing strategic implementation programs are critical to business success. However,managers often fail to acknowledge its importance. Once they select the best strategy,they fall into a false sense of security thinking they have just won the battle, when in factit has only just begun.In this document the author will critically assess the strategic implementation process. Theauthor will look in detail at the various areas requiring attention when managing strategyimplementation, as well as the traps and obstacles, which so many companies seem to getstuck in. Models used for implementing change and strategies are also examined.According to Farnham (1999:31),“Strategic implementation is concerned with the activities required for putting strategiesinto practice. It requires the setting of general objectives, formulating specific plans,providing the necessary finances and resources to carry these out, and monitoring andcontrolling the system to ensure that the agreed objectives are being met”.Implementing a strategy can be a long and hazardous road, with many obstacles along theway. People do not like uncertainty and that is exactly what implementing a new strategybrings to the table. Even when change is being made for a better future, its resisted. Thishesitation is a natural response.“Routines – the old way of doing things often exert a powerful influence. And eventhough there may be intellectual agreement and understanding of the need for change,routine ways of behaving can predominate” (Bowman, 1998)Implementing a new strategy is a huge task. The best place to start is by determining whoexactly will implement the strategy. Usually it includes several members of managementfrom the various levels in the organisation. These managers should involve theirsubordinates. In this way everyone gets to pitch in. This usually results in increasedmotivation and helps to gain employee support.
  4. 4. 4 Strategic ImplementationIt is desirable that everyone affected by the change would have had some form of input inthe formulation of the strategy and comprehend its importance. However this is notalways the case. Some companies purposely exclude their staff from giving input andsimply force the strategy onto them and expect them to follow it.Communication is the key to successful strategy implementation. Staff will be less hostileif the implications of the change are clearly explained to them. Specific goals andobjectives should be communicated. Managers should be open and truthful about theneed for change. They should also be made aware of how exactly the change is going toeffect employees, for example, will employees have to take on new tasks andresponsibilities or will they have to undergo training?.Support for change must be evident at all levels from top management right down tofloor staff. If change is supported its implementation will run smoother, speedier, moreefficient and effective. Involving staff that are affected by the change is a good way togain support. They may even come up with brilliant ideas that top management failed torecognise.Barber (2005:44), says that“Managers need to learn to trust their colleagues to come up with the best way ofmaking a project work”.He also suggests that people will be more willing to contribute if they understand fully theresults of their efforts. This can be demonstrated through something like a bonus or payincrease. He sums up“If you need people to innovate, to solve problems and to make the right judgements forthemselves, they need a good reason to make that effort. Being told what to do is notreason enough”.Feedback should be constant and it may not need to cost the company anything.Sometimes it may be appropriate just to say thanks or well done. This will motivate someemployees as it may satisfy their esteem needs.Mangers should always acknowledge an employee’s contribution. If they put forward anidea they should be thanked. They should also be informed of whether or not theirsuggestion is going to be used and if not why? This encourages them to keep giving inputeven if it is not taken on board the first time.Secondly, recruiting should be considered. Sometimes it may be necessary to recruit newpeople. These people can be found internally, inside the organisation or externally,outside the organisation. The achievement of the strategy may require skills, knowledgeor aptitudes that are not currently available. This situation results in the recruitment ofstaff externally. It may be more expensive than internal but could be well worth the cost.
  5. 5. 5 Strategic ImplementationIdeal candidates will help create new ideas. It is arguably easier for externals to bringabout change. They can be more objective than an insider. Internals have already built uprelationships and do not wish to offend people.These external recruits should preferably come from numerous backgrounds while at thesame time, share a common vision. Durk Jager, Proctor and Gambles, CEO highlights theerrors made by so many managers. He talks about the way in which they spend time goingto the bother of hiring employees from different backgrounds. Then they turn aroundand send them on standardised training programs. These new recruits are insulated at thecompany’s’ headquarters. After a short time they begin to sound alike, think alike andeven look alike. (Parker, 1998:1).If the company feels that internal recruitment is the way to go, then measures should beput in place prior to implementation. These include things such as training programs tokeep skills up to date as well as job rotation to create cross functional employees. Filling avacancy from within is much easier and quicker than looking for a new employee andthere are relatively no advertising costs. It may also help to reduce turnover. Whenpeople see that hard work pays off with a promotion it will encourage them to stay withthe company and do that extra mile.The process of selection must be fair and seen to be fair. If this is not the case conflict maymanifest itself in those mistreated.Thirdly, the author considers consultancy. When embarking on a strategy implementationproject it may be wise to hire a consultant. This is a person who has expert knowledge in aparticular field of study i.e. change management. A consultant can provide the companywith an objective view, often turning a threatening situation into a one full ofopportunities.Consultants can come with years of experience. They learn through a trial and errorprocess. According to Kent“one thing consultants are extremely good at is learning from the experience themselves.They will leave a programme with further insights into how companies work, and thepros and cons of taking a certain approach to instigating change”.While consultants can be a fountain of knowledge their use should be limited. They areextremely expensive, charging very high prices for their service. The company must beable to justify the cost. In order to do this they must in money terms measure thecontribution made by the consultant. A nearly impossible task as all inputs are notnecessarily tangible.The amount of control given to the consultant should be kept to a minimum.
  6. 6. 6 Strategic Implementation“Handing over whole-scale responsibility for a change programme to a consultancy canbe more problematic . . . this approach means the organisation losses significant controlover its own change process”,argues Whittington, professor of strategic management at Oxford’s Business School.At the end of the day a consultant works for him or herself and have their own interests atheart. If hiring a consultant, choose one that you can trust. Checking all references is asmart move. Perhaps getting an internal party to check and monitor consultants workcould increase control further.The fourth area of concern when implementing a strategy is Training which is referred toas“the planned acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform effectivelyin a given role or job . . . its purpose is to improve specific skills or abilities that will resultin better work performances (Gunningle, Hearty, Morley 2000:218).Training is a very powerful tool when it comes to implementing strategy. If employees aretrained in the skills and competencies needed to achieve the strategy, they are more likelyto be committed to it. Hopefully it will deter some from looking elsewhere foremployment.Hunger & Wheelan (2003:140), argue that“training is especially important for a differentiation strategy emphasizing quality orcustomer service”.They give the example of a leading mobile phone manufacturer called ‘Motorola’. Everyyear the company spends $120 million on training their workforce, a huge amount.Motorola reckon that for every $1 that is spent on training, it returns $30 in productivitygains in 3 years.Training is desirable for both a business and its employees. If staff are well trained itmeans quicker cycle time, reduced wastage and improved customer service. It is beneficialto staff in the sense that it should lead to higher staff morale and self-actualisation. If theydo decide to leave the company they will be considered very employable.The fifth area of concern is organisational Culture. If the strategy being implementeddoes not match the organisation’s current culture, then there is little room for success. In1998, a strategy to merge two of the biggest car manufactures Chrysler and Daimler-Benzwas carried out. Management failed to predict the consequences of implementing astrategy where inequalities existed in the two organisations in terms of the culture andhow exactly this would impact on the implementation process.
  7. 7. 7 Strategic ImplementationChrysler’s staff kept everything low key. When going to meetings they would all gotogether in minivans and when in the air, economy class was more than adequate. This isin stark contrast to the top dogs at Daimler-Benz’s who had the use of chauffer drivenSedans and always travelled first class. The merger was not the success story it wasforecasted to be. Sales dropped and both companies lost a lot of their top people.Chrysler had to make redundant twenty five percent of their staff. This should act as awarning to all those who think strategy and culture are two different issues to bemanaged individually.The sixth aspect to be considered is organisational structure. Farnham (1999:35) states“Building appropriate designs and structures is an important response to strategicimplementation, if organisations are to deliver their missions and objectives effectively”.If a business is to sustain its competitive advantage it must adapt to changes that arise. Forexample, the expansion and growth of a company through new products and movementinto new markets may mean that its structure is no longer viable and has to be changed.Hunger and Wheelan (2003:125) focus on the work of Alfred Chandler. Chandler carriedout a study of Du Pont, a large U.S company. He found that‚in their early years Du Pont tend to have a centralised functional organisational structurethat is well suited to producing and selling a limited range of products. As they add newproduct lines, purchase their won sources of supply, and create their own distributionnetworks, they become too complex for highly centralised structures. To remainsuccessful, this type of org needs to shift to a decentralised structure with severalsemiautonomous divisions”.If a company’s structure does not suit or fit the strategy it will be nearly impossible toachieve stated goals and objectives. Companies can change the structure, however thiscauses a lot of upset and may not be a viable option. In recent years organisations havebeen looking to business process reengineering as an alternative.Lastly, the concept of Business Process Reengineering, described by Hunger & Wheelan(2003:133) as“ the radical redesign of business processes to achieve major gains in cost, service or time.It looks at breaking down the business into numerous processes and trying to make themmore efficient”.
  8. 8. 8 Strategic ImplementationManagers will often attempt to implement a new strategy that does not compliment theway the organisation does business. This can spell disaster. People should follow theexample of Ford Motor Company. Ford wished to implement a strategy to improve theproductivity of its American Accounts Payment Department and cut costs. Byreengineering their business processes Ford managed to cut 75% of their workforce whilereducing order processing and cycle time. Ford used IT to support the process anddramatically changed the way the task was done. [See appendix 1].There are many approaches and models that can be adopted to manage the changeprocess and allow for a more effective and efficient implementation of strategy. Firstlythere is Kurt Lewin’s three step model. He believed that an organisation needed tounfreeze the status quo i.e. the way things are currently done. This involves creating anawareness of the need for change and overcoming resistance.Next, the organisation should move from old state to new state. This may requiremanagers to adjust employees’ behaviour or attitudes. When the change occurs theorganisation must refreeze the new state. This is necessary to ensure that the new statebecomes permanent. This step can be reinforced through recognition and rewards givento employees for their co-operation.Today businesses operate in environments that are constantly changing. Lewin’s model isbased on the assumption that organisations operate in a stable environment that does notchange. While this model may indeed work for small scale change projects it is not suitedto the more complex. It also fails to recognise power and politics that exists in firms andits influence on the strategic implementation process.Lewin’s model was not successful in managing change and so new models were developedto combat this issue. Dawson and Wilson developed the Emergent Change Model. Thisviewed change as a period of organisational transition characterised by disruption,confusion, and unforeseen events that emerge over long time frames.Burns (1996) believed this model was the way to go. He highlights the main tenets. [Seeappendix 2]. These seem to be at play at Hewlett-Packard (HP). HP is an innovativecompany who likes to“encourage experimentation. They reward both success and failures. They celebratemistakes” (Robbins 2001:558).This model’s success lies in the fact that it is based on the belief that organisations work involatile environments. Managers should aspire to this model.
  9. 9. 9 Strategic ImplementationArmstrong (1999) focuses on the work of Beer et al (1990), who prescribes ‘six steps toeffective change’ [See appendix 3]. These steps aim to“build a self-reinforcing cycle of commitment, co-ordination, and competence”,by emphasising the importance of“task alignment-reorganising employees’ roles, responsibilities and relationships”.Beer and his colleagues truly believe that this approach is“fundamental to the effective management of change”.Cummings and Huse (1989) have written on the activities associated with effectivestrategic implementation. It divides these activities into four main areas. These includemotivating change, creating a vision, developing political support, managing the transitionand sustaining momentum. [See appendix 4].This model offers people a way to embark on a change programme in a systematic fashion.By following this model a manager can ensure that every aspect requiring his or herattention is covered.The author has concluded that managing the implementation of strategy correctly iscritical to business success. Involving employees in the decision-making process leads tosmoother implementation. It helps to build support and commitment for the change.Managers need to be transparent about the reasons for the change. The goals andobjectives of the organisation should be communicated to everyone within it. Allemployees should be informed how exactly the change will effect them if at all. Feedbackshould be given regulary.Every organisation embarking on a new strategy needs to consider recruitment. The skills,knowledge and aptitudes needed to implement the strategy may not be currentlyavailable. Expert knowledge may be required. Consultants can be used. They are veryexpensive so consider whether or not the benefits out weigh the costs.A highly trained workforce is usually less hostile to change. Equipping staff with the skillsand competencies needed for the change reduces uncertainty and conflict.The organisational culture must fit in with the strategy being pursued. If there is amismatch the implementation will not be a success. The same can be said aboutorganisational design and structure.
  10. 10. 10 Strategic ImplementationThere are numerous models, which can help managers to manage strategyimplementation. The emergent change model is definitely one to consider. Organisationsoperate in a very dynamic environment, the model acknowledges this. Beer and hiscolleagues give managers six steps that lead to effective change. Cummins and Huse offerinsights into the activities associated with effective strategic implementation.The management of the strategy implementation process is essential. By following theconsiderations outlined in this document a manager can successfully implement a strategy.
  11. 11. 11 Strategic ImplementationBibliographyArmstrong, M. (1999) Managing Activities. London: Institute of Personnel andDevelopment.Barber, A. (2005) Create change through internal communication. Journal of PeopleManagement, Vol.11 No.10 :44 - 45Bowman, C. (1998) Strategy in Practice. Europe: Prentice HallFarnham, D. (1999) Managing in a Business Context, 1st ed. London: Institute of Personneland DevelopmentGunningle, P. & Heraty, N. & Morley, M. (2002) Human Resource Management in Ireland,2nd ed. Dublin: Gill & MacmillanHunger, D. & Wheelan, T. (2003) Essentials of Strategic Management 3rd ed. New Jersey:Pearson Education LimitedKent, S. (2005) Outer Limits. Journal of People Management, Vol.11 No.13 :41 - 42Newman, W. & Logan, J. (1971) Strategy, Policy and Central Management. Cincinnati:Southwestern PublicationsParker-Pope, T. (1998) New CEO Preaches Rebellion for P & G’s Cult. Walt Street Journal,Vol. December 11thRobbins, S. (2001) Organizational Behaviour, 9th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall