Until the 1960s, the word “strategy” belonged on the battlefield, not in the boardroom. In fact, Drucker mentioned strategy only once in The Practice of Management. It wasn’t until 1962, when Alfred Chandler (a former teacher at the U.S. Naval War College) wrote Strategy and Structure, that the term entered the business lexicon. Around the same time, leaders like Bruce Henderson (BCG), Bill Bain, and Fred Gluck (McKinsey) launched the management consulting era – quickly adopting the term and turning strategic plans into a valuable commodity.
These firms focused primarily on strategy development, leaving the execution to their clients, who often faced a gap in implementation—a challenge most companies still face. Today, companies on average deliver only 63% of the financial performance their strategies promise due to ineffective implementation. While 61% of executives believe they are good at formulating strategy, only 34% believe they are good at executing on it.
Strategy Activation describes a continuous cycle of improvement to eliminate the gap, incorporating real-time feedback to promote collective enterprise engagement with strategic initiatives. LEK identified four dimensions of strategy activation, from defining the plan to generating a commitment to change. Korn Ferry has applied strategy activation to leadership development. And others have created proprietary approaches to strategy activation, like PWC’s Performance Alignment Model.
The Challenge of Execution
Strategy activation frameworks differ in terminology, but share a similar approach: developing a shared understanding (from vision to shared vision) of enterprise goals to impact the daily performance of individuals throughout an organization – and more closely aligning outcomes with objectives. But while the concept of strategy activation is simple, it can be significantly more complicated in execution.
How can a new platform enable the sort of structured dialogue, big data analytics, and iteration necessary to simplify the activation of strategy at a global scale? What if, rather than layering technology on top of outdated management theories, technology enabled a new paradigm for data-driven management? What if the key to unlocking the collective genius of teams was rooted less in communications and engagement, and more in fostering a dialogue to create shared meaning and action?
What if the development and implementation of strategy were one and the same?
Excerpted from a forthcoming white paper by @alantodd on the origins of the Strategy Activation Platform