Views > Strategy > Tool > Thinkstrategy

Bryant C. Mitchell, Member, Teacher, United States

Thinkstrategy software transforms the McKinsey 7-S framework into a collaborative system that enables individuals and teams to make their organizations more effective.

A better way to execute strategy.

We view strategy execution as an ongoing process that communicates, translates, coordinates, monitors, allocates resources, and makes adjustments to a chosen strategy. thinkstrategy is a system that provides structure to the process. Because it is designed to facilitate broad participation, the system makes it possible for organizations to institutionalize the strategy execution process.

The McKinsey 7-S framework makes it clear that achieving organizational effectiveness requires a multi-dimensional approach. thinkstrategy reinforces this point by focusing on managing strategy execution across each of the 7-S elements. This approach addresses many of the challenges inherent in strategy execution. Strategy practitioners, authors, and researchers point to a number of reasons for the poor execution rate of strategic initiatives. What they all seem to have in common is outlined below.

Unclear strategies and conflicting priorities:

Many of the attributes of an unclear strategy stem from the organization's response to change. What becomes known as clear or not clear occurs after people within each of the organization's 7-S elements provide feedback on what needs to happen in order for the strategy to be successful. People can be clear about what change to an existing system is needed, and at the same time be not clear about what skills the organization must possess to effect the change.

There are times when formulated strategies introduce self-induced gaps and conflicts that are not intended and are not recognizable prior to execution. Successful execution requires a simultaneous view of planning and doing. Stated another way, it is important to think about execution as plans are formulated.

Managers who use the 7-S framework to assist in discovering the right relationships among the elements, are better able to anticipate those gaps and conflicts. For example, analysis of the staff needed to carry out certain strategies might reveal the requirement to engage a number of key people very early in the strategy formulation process. Their early involvement could help stimulate buy-in and avoid unnecessary competing clashes over staff resources due to initiatives they are already working on.

The failure to get wide participation is often linked closely with poorly communicating strategies throughout the organization. This can easily happen when high level strategies are not broken down or converted into action steps that can be carried out.

What is called for here is a system designed to dynamically capture the translation and conversion process. Using thinkstrategy, all the key people in the organization can join in creating a composite view of planning, translating, converting, and doing for each of the 7-S elements. This broad involvement allows issues related to clarity, gaps, and conflicts to be identified and addressed early in the execution process, and gives the organization the best chance for their timely resolution.

Lack of commitment to proactively address resistance to change:

Forming an integrated view of the organization across the 7-S elements can help managers prepare for resistance to change before it happens. For this to work, a change plan is needed. In its absence, managers may try to do everything at once and consequently create a situation that makes coordination difficult if not impossible. When this happens, confusion and frustration sets in, and resistance is bound to occur.

Of course, other forms of resistance exist and need to be dealt with. But managers should not give legitimacy to resistance by putting themselves and others in positions where the cause and effect of change is not understood. thinkstrategy helps managers develop and roll out their change plans. During team work sessions, managers can use thinkstrategy to communicate their plans to team members and set expectations with regard to priorities and timelines.

Team members can then use the system to adapt and apply relevant parts of the change plan to their areas of responsibility. In this way everyone is involved and held accountable through their active participation in the process. Each person's contributions are captured and structured by thinkstrategy to allow for general use and refinement. In this setting if resistance is met, it can be channeled to specific identifiable issues that can be addressed.

Slow or no response to changing conditions that impact original strategies:

A lot of times this problem is explained in the context of the organization's response to the most recent set of strategies that is being implemented, and the changing conditions are often considered to be external to the organization. What probably contributes to the inertia as much as anything is the cumulative impact of the sets of prior strategies. When managers look carefully across the 7-S elements before and during the current round of changes, they see the effects of decisions already made.

Prior strategic decisions are not easily changed because most of the organization's current actions are driven by them. These decisions are already having the greatest impact on whether the current strategic objectives are being met. If any of the new set of strategies is designed to unwind or modify any of the earlier strategies, then the time and effort to be expended will be significant.

Even if this is not the case, the effects of earlier decisions are substantial. The capabilities of the organization (skills) and the people in the organization (staff) are tough to change. If the new set of strategies calls for major changes in either of these elements, then expect the challenge of a slow response.

There are compelling benefits to be realized from using thinkstrategy in any event, since changes in strategy mean revising goals and modifying action steps, and this process can be managed using thinkstrategy. Just as the system was used for planning, translating, converting, and doing for each of the 7-S elements in the first round of strategy, the same activities can be coordinated in subsequent rounds. What's especially useful is that the before and after versions of the strategy are maintained by the system. This allows everyone to see the transitional effects of the changes, and provides insight on where new challenges are likely to occur.

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