Portfolio Planning Made Simple

You Do Strategy. I’ll Do Execution.

Posted by Bela Barner on 10/11/17 9:34 AM

Practitioner Series on Making Strategy Execution a Reality | Part 2 of 3
Part 1  |  Part 3

It is very understandable (and common) to hear from clients “we really want to focus on execution right now.” They want to focus on enabling their PMOs and leveraging PPM systems to better manage delivery resources.

This makes sense.

Gains in delivery efficiency can free up substantial resources. You get a better handle on costs. Delivery schedules gain credibility. Stakeholders are happy. Delivery teams feel less stress. Unicorns and dolphins will frolic in the CIO’s dreams.

If only it was that simple.

The problem: information technology is too powerful

Information technology is too powerful, too impactful, too transformational—and too expensive—to relegate strictly to “execution”.

Implementing technology faster, cheaper, and leaner is fantastic—until poorly aligned investments crowd out growth opportunities, embed legacy costs, or deliver inconsequential or obsolete value when pursued under strategic blinders.

And “strategy” is far too vague and abstract to simply be thrown into the laps of middle managers dispersed throughout the organization without very clear operating direction: what specific programs are being funded, which ones are not funded, and why? What results are expected from these investments of time, money, and brainpower? Where should resources be allocated in light of our constraints?

Strategy and execution first meet in budgeting and resource allocation

Strategy becomes execution when leaders engage in a disciplined process that distills strategy into specific decisions that tie to resource plans and timelines, and, ideally, to operating metrics and KPIs.

We call this alignment.

Most organizations struggle with developing a strategy process and decision architecture that enables them to align the moving parts down into the lowest levels of the organization—where execution occurs.

Most organizations struggle with developing a strategy process and decision architecture that enables them to align the moving parts down into the lowest levels of the organizationwhere execution occurs. For most middle managers and line employees, strategy is too abstract and distant from daily responsibility to hold much meaning when described in presentations, reports, posters, and weekly briefings.

Strategic alignment is never created by executive fiat, well-crafted words, or intricate performance dashboards.

The truth is that IT strategy and execution cannot thrive independently

They are yin and yang. If you accept Michael Porter’s notion of strategy, then organizational trade-offs—the fork-in-the-road decisions about where to invest resources—are the operational essence of strategy.

The more tightly defined the strategy, the easier trade-off decisions become when executives confront them, the easier it is for middle managers to internalize and enact them, and the more focused, aligned, and efficient execution becomes.

The more tightly defined the strategy, the easier trade-off decisions become when executives confront them, the easier it is for middle managers to internalize and enact them, and the more focused, aligned, and efficient execution becomes. Visible signs of change and improved performance then close the feedback loop for strategy. The cycle reinforces itself.

Frolic away, unicorns and dolphins, frolic away.



Practitioner Series on Making Strategy Execution a Reality: Part 1
 

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