4 Questions for Leading Successful Strategy Execution

Published: Sep 22, 2021
Modified: Apr 08, 2024


Regardless of the issue at hand or the goal ahead, coming up with an innovative strategy is just the first step—and the easy part. To actually drive business results, a breakthrough strategy has to be put into action. Implementation is the challenging part. Based on numerous surveys of C-suite executives, it is estimated that more than 60% of new business strategies are not effectively executed .

As a leader, how will you execute your strategy? Answering that question starts with taking a clear, hard look at whether you have the required resources—financial, material, and human—and procedures in place to support your strategy’s implementation. The answer also depends on what kind of projects your strategic initiative includes.

Every strategic initiative has two kinds of projects. The first is a long-term, all-encompassing, organization-wide initiative. Designing and building a new system is an example of such an overarching project. So are the related projects of training large groups of people to use the new system; adapting, modifying, or enhancing organizational procedures to work with the new system; and creating an additional system to manage and maintain it. Projects of this scope are typically envisioned and planned by senior leaders, often in close collaboration with the CEO and input from outside advisors, and then implemented across an organization gradually, over a period of several months, if not years.

Then, there are fast-forward projects. This second type of project is a specific, measurable, smaller-scale effort. Yet, it is also part of an overall strategic goal. A fast-forward project is a stepping stone towards achieving a larger initiative with the potential to make a significant impact on the organization. As such, team and project leaders have an even higher stake in the successful execution of this kind of project than the first.

To help leaders confidently execute fast-forward projects to advance their strategy, American Management Association (AMA) emphasizes four key criteria and critical questions to ask:

1. Does your company have the bandwidth for project execution?
A fast-forward project should be completed in about 90 days. Before diving in, leaders must take stock of other time-sensitive demands, and ask: Do we have the bandwidth, organizational support, and talent required to accomplish this project within the next three months?

2. Does your team have the resources to complete the project?
A fast-forward project should be achievable with resources already available or easily secured. Before diving in, leaders must take stock of everything required to complete the project—materials, tools, technology, people, and more—and ask: Do we have immediate access to the resources needed? If not, do we have the means and funds to acquire them, swiftly?

3. What other departments need to be involved for effective strategy execution?
A fast-forward project usually requires cross-functional involvement. Before diving in, leaders must take stock of the different skills and processes required to complete the project, and ask: Do we have buy-in from the other departments needed? Are there skill gaps we need to address?

4. Is the project a worthwhile investment?
A fast-forward project lends itself to a bottom-line payoff. When seeking the resources and support needed to get the project off the ground, leaders should ask: How can we make a strong business case for the project as a worthwhile investment?

A fast-forward project involves learning and opens the door to further progress toward the main strategic goal. For leaders who take the time and care to get everything needed to get it done right, this smaller-scale project paves the way to larger achievements and ongoing successful strategy execution.

About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org.