The strategic execution gap (a.k.a knowing what to do but just not doing it)

"To know and not to do is to not yet know"

Very often organizations and individuals know what to do, but for whatever reasons, they don't actually do it.

One new CEO I know had done a strategic review, out of which came a promising initiative: a 'Total Care' scheme where customers paid a regular fee in exchange for extra-fast access to engineers, prototyping, flexibility on specification changes, scope changes and so on. The CEO was optimistic that it would mean better customer retention and some nice recurring revenues.

When he announced the idea, a near-to-retirement executive showed him marketing collateral for an almost identical scheme from two years earlier. It had been talked about, but no one followed through.

Assume it was a good idea. That's two year's earnings left on the table (we have to assume, because they didn't follow through the second time either).

"99% done is nowhere"

When it comes to innovation and 'being entrepreneurial', a lot of businesses are like the legendary Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a boulder to the top of a hill only to see it roll back to the bottom. Over an over again. For eternity.

Businesses like this do a lot of the work on a new product, service, technology or deal, but don't get the project over the top. There's a delay – maybe the company hits a particularly busy patch and the project goes on hold. Then people start doing something new. A few months later the project is forgotten, or the people who know the details have moved on.

How do you avoid these 99% done projects? It depends on the cause: 

  • Sometimes it's a lack of a system to keep track of a project that needs to be put on pause. You need a system.
  • Sometimes a good idea is over-elaborated to the point where implementation is too tough. You need an editor, someone to help pare it back to something do-able that can be resourced and tested.
  • Sometime its fear. You need to do a quick, rational risk assessment then, "lick the stamp and send it."

Even good advice is useless if you don't act on it

Bad advice is worse than useless. But even good advice means nothing if it's not acted upon. I've had both coaching clients and mentees whose perfectly sensible goals haven't changed in years. They know what to do, but they don't do it.

They're just "preparing to get ready to change." You can read more about that, and ideas that help with all of these issues, in my books, especially Start With What Works and Committed Action. Visit the Books page for more info including free access to sample chapters and other resources.