How to Implement Execution of Strategy in Business?

~ Harsh Mariwala (Chairman Marico Ltd., Founder ASCENT Foundation)

Good execution requires a good IT Management system, an organisational culture with the involvement of associates (vendors, supply chain etc.)

Role of IT

• IT can be a wonderful tool for execution of strategy. Especially in cross functional projects, wherein communication can become an issue giving real time updates to functional heads makes sure that everyone is aligned and updated.

• In order to ensure proper execution, it must be monitored. IT and Finance can give us reports on the status and then the issues of what has not been done must be addressed

Role of Culture

• The organisation’s culture is a major driving force in the execution of strategy. The culture is not an end in itself – it must help you in the proper execution of strategy.

• The culture that the organisation has inculcated – is what makes everyone align himself or herself on the same page and makes execution more accurate.

• How to set the culture of openness – the freedom to ask uncomfortable questions, sharing knowledge/information across all levels.

• The top hierarchy always sets the culture of the organisation. I recommend training programs for the senior management that can help reaffirm and reiterate the culture.

• Identify the key opportunities in your goal sheet – try and achieve the ones that give you a ‘right to win’ – even if it means over investing in that particular goal, in terms of manpower or finances.

Meetings to discuss execution of strategy

• Anybody who can contribute to the meeting should be a part of it. Timing and schedules of these meetings must be pre-set in order to save time. Penalty may be set for members who do not come. There should be structured meetings with a proper agenda.

E.g. At Marico, we adhere to – WWW – Who will do What and by When. We also do not do presentations, anything that needs to be discussed, can simply be mailed two days in advance – it is taken to be read by all. Thereafter, we simply deliberate and discuss. We also have a 10-point checklist – that covers points like – did the meeting start in time; did all members make in time; was the previous agenda fulfilled etc. However, ideation sessions must be different form structured meetings – where we can afford to digress, amble along or simply ideate.

• To ensure proper execution of strategy – have a task force. Take one person from each function and ask them to come up with a strategy document – competitor analysis, environment analysis etc. The task force at Marico has very high performing individuals from even two levels down from the function heads. Every year, do pick up two members of the previous task force. The task force must be cross functional. Else, hire a professional consultant to come up with a recommendation. However, be sure to take your own judgment- you know your market the best.

Strategy cannot not be executed, till the root causes of the hurdles in its execution are eradicated – don’t treat the effect, treat the cause.

E.g. Cross functional projects become difficult to run as issues crop up between functional heads – it could be jealousy, or miscommunication etc. Calming down the heads during a heated argument may not be the solution at all. As it will happen again. You must have the ability to identify what is wrong between a group or two people. If you are unable to, ask your HR head to intervene and try and diagnose. Relationships must be built/ bridged – through casual meetings or group outings where we colleagues have the freedom to express their views on what they find negative in each other. These are managerial challenges, and must not be construed to be negatives.

• To ‘get the outside in’ search for thought leaders in your industry – take their inputs and opinions. If you have access to them, onboard them and make sure that no one in your team feels threatened or insecure. The entire team must share the excitement of having him/her on board.

• Strategy must be followed but it can be reassessed and realigned if new opportunities come up. However, it must not be done every time.

• Goals in reference to your growth rate, must be set on the basis of your industry trends and your past rate of growth.