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.
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.