Strategy: Formulation, Implementation and Execution

Value is captured at the market place not at strategy meetings. The problem with several organisations aside from lack of a culture that promotes innovation is implemtation and execution of strategy already crafted. Like you know strategy itself is fundamentally about choices. After the decision on exactly how to play comes the question of how to implement and then execute the strategy.

There are three fundamental questions executives in a business unit cannot delegate: • Who should be the customers that define our target market? • What value proposition differentiates our offering from those of our competitors? • What capabilities will give us the advantage in delivering that value proposition? These are the choices that defines a business strategy and should drive the decisions of the management team, functions and staff everyday.

But beyond formulation is implementation. Implementing a strategy involves all the decisions and activities required to turn the strategy into reality. The first step in strategy implementation is a clear definition of the capabilities required by the organization. The executives must clearly identify the competence they require to executive the choices they have made. This helps them determine whose help they must enlist and how to motivate them. This is where you look yourselves on the face and ask, ‘gentlemen, what are we really capable of and what capacity do we need to possess to make sense of the choice we have made?’

The next step is a clear definition of the advantage the organization has or needs to create. Understand that every competitive advantage lies within the value chain. Now the value chain is a collection of all the activities an organization performs to design, produce, market, deliver and support its products. Therefore the leaders will have to look through the value chain to determine where they have or can create an advantage to support the strategy they have chosen to pursue. The advantage can be an exclusive license, a government policy, access to information, access to better raw materials etc.

The third important step is a clear identification of the organisation’s business or service portfolio. That means the collection of the products and/or services provided by the organization. Your products and services should be an expression of your business strategy hence the need to identify and analyse them to be sure they are in alignment with the chosen strategy. So if the organization has the capabilities, advantage and business portfolio it wants, its strategy is implemented. If it has the customers, value proposition and skills it has choosen to have, its strategy is fully implemented. However, no strategy can truly be fully implemented because the assumptions upon which a strategy is based are all in a constant state of change. Remaining relevant and competitive therefore depends on the ability of the leaders to evolve their strategies.

But then there is a difference between strategy implantation and execution. Strategy execution are the decisions and actions you take to translate your implemented strategy into a commercial success. As an example, let’s say MTN chooses to begin the provision of financial services. When they create a platform to provide financial services they have implemented the strategy. But then they still need to set goals, craft a purpose driven mission statement, establish the right incentives and other such things that are necessary to get results within the context of the executed strategy. This is called execution.

The difference between strategy implementation and execution is not about thinking and doing or planning and acting. You have to do all of that whether you are implementing or executing. But success comes not just from implementing a strategy but by executing the strategy.

Brian Reuben is an author, advisor to business leaders, keynote speaker and an entrepreneur. He has trained and advised senior executives at several organizations including Africa Reinsurance Corporation, UAC, United Securities Limited, BusinessDay among others. He is the Director of Brian Reuben International, a strategy and leadership advisory firm based in Lagos Nigeria and sits on the board of a number of organizations in Africa.