Are skills in ex­e­cu­tion of a strat­egy essen­tial to suc­ceed as a CEO?

Ex­e­cu­tion skills when build­ing a busi­ness strat­egy can de­fine a CEO’s ten­ure from me­diocre to a mas­ter­piece writes Ryan Makris.

Business First - - STRATEGY -

Does a CEO who ex­cels in the ex­e­cu­tion of a strat­egy from vi­sion to re­al­ity suc­ceed as a CEO in the busi­ness world?

Plan­ning, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and lis­ten­ing are im­por­tant skills for a CEO to have, yet ex­e­cu­tion skills de­liver re­sults and suc­cess.

A CEO’s ul­ti­mate aim is to en­sure his or her vi­sion and the busi­ness vi­sion align with the cho­sen op­er­a­tional strat­egy so that it is ex­e­cuted seam­lessly, is fit for pur­pose, on time and bud­get.

Har­vard ed­u­cated Pro­fes­sor Steven Kaplan from the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Booth School said “As­pir­ing CEOs or cor­po­rate board mem­bers re­spon­si­ble for hir­ing de­ci­sions, data about lead­er­ship pro­vide some­thing novel to con­sider. The data-driven find­ings sug­gest ex­e­cu­tion skills are an im­por­tant way CEOs set them­selves apart from the pack. It seems plau­si­ble ex­ec­u­tives can im­prove ex­e­cu­tion skills, be­ing per­sis­tent, ef­fi­cient and proac­tive. Of all the skills a CEO re­quire at their dis­posal, ex­e­cu­tion of a strat­egy is essen­tial in trans­form­ing the vi­sion into re­al­ity.”

Re­search from Kaplan and Sorensen sug­gests a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween ex­e­cu­tion skills and suc­cess.

Mike Schu­man is the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Trans­for­ma­tive Con­sult­ing who has over 25 years global com­mer­cial ex­pe­ri­ence across all in­dus­try sec­tors, build­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, teams and lead­ers. He said, “There has been sig­nif­i­cant ma­te­rial on the “gap” be­tween strat­egy and ex­e­cu­tion. I in­stead re­fer to it as a “chasm”. It is not as dif­fi­cult as some may think to bridge it. Some tools have helped me are listed be­low. • Busi­ness ca­pa­bil­i­ties map: this sim­ple tool al­lows you to vis­ually demon­strate in a heat map fash­ion the core ca­pa­bil­i­ties that drive your sec­tor or or­gan­i­sa­tion and how much bud­get is cur­rently al­lo­cated to projects for each. You should then be able to show strate­gic align­ment to the pub­lished cor­po­rate strat­egy and up­com­ing project pipe­line. This will as­sist in project and bud­get pri­ori­ti­sa­tion. • Work­streams: how do you eat an ele­phant? You’ve heard the say­ing. It’s the same with turn­ing strat­egy into ac­tion. You must break down a strat­egy into streams of re­lated work which can be fur­ther bro­ken into sup­port­ing projects or ini­tia­tives. I gen­er­ally find at least 6-7 streams is a good num­ber (man­age­able). • Gover­nance: all strate­gies which are seek­ing to move into ex­e­cu­tion should form a gover­nance model with key stake­hold­ers and at least a few evan­ge­lists to keep the en­ergy go­ing. There is noth­ing worse than a lofty doc­u­ment of moth­er­hood state­ments with no clear path for­ward. Don’t let your work be­come the dusty relic with the pink bow wrapped around it which sits on the shelf. Even worse, some­where down the road, some­one will pay to do the same strat­egy work again be­cause your doc­u­ment has been for­got­ten.” Re­search from Kaplan and Sorensen sug­gests a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween ex­e­cu­tion skills of CEO and suc­cess. Boris Groys­berg Pro­fes­sor of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion at Har­vard Busi­ness School re­cently wrote: “Strate­gic think­ing and ex­e­cu­tion – strate­gic fore­sight and the abil­ity to think strate­gi­cally, of­ten on a global ba­sis—was also fre­quently cited. One con­sul­tant stressed the abil­ity to “set the strate­gic di­rec­tion” for the or­gan­i­sa­tion; an­other equated strate­gic think­ing with “in­te­gra­tive lead­er­ship”. Oth­ers em­pha­sised the strate­gic think­ing also calls for the abil­ity to ex­e­cute a vi­sion, which one re­spon­dent called “op­er­at­ing savvy” and an­other de­fined as “a high stan­dard in ex­e­cu­tion”

One con­sul­tant pointed out the strate­gic think­ing is a rel­a­tively new re­quire­ment for many func­tional C-level ex­ec­u­tives, and an­other noted the surge in at­ten­tion to strate­gic think­ing oc­curred in the decade 2000-2010.

Lead­er­ship con­sult­ing firm Ser­vice Desk Coach­ing agrees with Kaplan and Soren­son and found lis­ten­ing to em­ployee con­cerns about CEOs who strug­gle to bring a vi­sion to re­al­ity, seam­lessly di­min­ish con­fi­dence and sub­se­quently the busi­ness cul­ture. This leaves un­fin­ished projects which im­pact the busi­ness de­liv­ery model. A plan is great, but it’s the ex­e­cu­tion of a strat­egy which gar­nishes re­sults. There is no point tak­ing the busi­ness on a jour­ney with no des­ti­na­tion or pur­pose.

Real estate has three proven rules to cre­ate wealth through pur­chas­ing prop­erty: po­si­tion, po­si­tion, and po­si­tion. In busi­ness, po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers look for one dis­tinct qual­ity in their lead­ers above all else which is com­mer­cially proven: re­sults, re­sults and re­sults. No busi­ness hires ex­ec­u­tives to the c –suite with­out pre­vi­ous sig­nif­i­cant tan­gi­ble achieve­ments.

Su­pe­rior ex­e­cu­tion skills in strat­egy dif­fer­en­ti­ate the ex­ec­u­tives who will add more value and pur­pose to the board, share­hold­ers, sup­pli­ers, fi­nanciers and cus­tomers which drive con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ments in busi­ness.

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