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How do you implement a strategy that works?

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Robin Speculand

A good friend of mine, Robin Speculand, recently spoke to
our Financial Services Club in London about implementation. 

Robin Speculand

It was a popular night, primarily because implementing strategy
is really difficult.  In fact, coming up
with a good strategy in the first place is a major challenge then, having got a
strategy, getting the organisation behind the strategy and implementing the darned
thing is even harder.  Yet, according to
Robin’s annual survey of organisations, most companies are engaged in developing
new strategies and four out of five people believe their company are good at
developing new strategies … but the majority of people think they are bad at
implementing strategies.

This is where Robin’s company specialises and so I asked
Robin to write a blog about it for the Finanser’s readers.  Here’s his guest blog entry:

Today in business, leaders are habitually underestimating
the challenge of strategy implementation and as such nine out of ten strategy
implementations fail.

Far too many leaders can more easily recall an
implementation that failed than one that succeeded. It is time to correct this
by putting the spotlight on implementation.

You can have the greatest strategy in the world but if
you cannot implement it then it is no more value than the paper it is written

One of the largest contributing factors to the high
number of failed implementations is that when leaders return to their offices
after creating their challenge, they are commonly left on their own to work out
how to implement it. They must figure out how to inform the people in their
division of the imminent changes; explain what needs to change and why; review
the way the team is working and the current rewards and recognition to ensure
it supports the new strategy; motivate their people; assess the current measures
being used and report back to their peers. It is a multitude of activities that
creates a maze that many leaders become lost in. What they need is a compass to
guide them through this implementation challenge.

After 12
years of research and testing with leaders around the world, Bridges Business
Consultancy International (the company I work for) developed the Implementation
Compass, a tool that provides a structure for strategy to come alive.


Below is a description of the eight areas for
excellence in execution that make up the Implementation Compass and key questions leaders should
consider before embarking on their implementation journey.

Eight Areas for Excellence in Execution

1. People                            

It is not leadership that
implements strategy but people

Questions to consider: Do you have the right calibre of people? Do they
have the competencies to execute the new strategy? Are they motivated to do so?

2. Biz Case                          

Create a sense of urgency
through the emotional and numerical rational for adopting the strategy

Questions to consider: Why is the strategy centre stage? Do your staff
members know what to do differently on the Monday morning after implementation
is announced? Do they have the right tools and techniques to implement the

3. Communication          

People can only adopt a
strategy if they know about it and understand it

Questions to consider: Do all your staff know what the new strategy is
and why it has been adopted? Is the strategy communicated in a way that it
comes alive? Do you provide on-going communication?

4. Measurement             

Change your strategy, change
your measures as you get what you measure

Questions to consider: Do you have the right measures for the new
strategy? Are the measures being leveraged to guide the implementation? Are the
measures driving the right behaviours?

5. Culture           

You must change the day-to-day
activities of your staff members and have a culture that support and fosters

Questions to consider: What needs to change in the fundamental way you
are working so as to encourage the adoption of the new culture? Are we using
the language of the new strategy?

6. Process           

There must be congruence
between what you say you are
going to do (strategy implementation) and what you are doing (the process) 

Questions to consider: Do your processes support or hinder the new
strategy? Where can you redesign the process so it is more supportive and
effective? What should you “stop” doing?

7. Reinforcement           

You must reinforce the expected
behaviours so that they are continuously repeated

Questions to consider: When staff members step in to the unknown and
demonstrate the new behaviours, are they recognized and rewarded? Does the
reinforcement encourage them to continue to demonstrate the desired new behaviours?

8. Review           

The weakest of the eight points
among leaders – you must constantly review to make sure the right actions are
being taken to deliver the right results

Questions to consider: Do you know if the actions being taken are
producing the right results? Do you know what has been learned from the
implementation in the last 90 days? Do you know what you need to start doing
differently from today?

Robin Speculand1

Robin Speculand is Chief Executive of Bridges Business
Consultancy International having previously worked for Citibank in Asia.  He is a bestselling author, and his latest book is Beyond Strategy – The Leader’s Role in
Successful Implementation.
 Robin is also a masterful
event facilitator and an engaging keynote speaker. Visit



Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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