Key insights for overcoming organizational resistance

The problem with poor performance in an organization is typically not with planning, but with doing; strategies often are not implemented successfully, according to Lawrence Hrebiniak in his book Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change. The book aims to take an empirically-based, integrative, complete approach to making strategy work, focusing extensively on managing change.

Key obstacles to successful implementation of strategy were identified in surveys, and eight areas important to the success of executing strategy were derived from them:

  • Developing a model to guide execution decisions or actions
  • Understanding how the creation of strategy affects the execution of strategy
  • Managing change effectively, including culture change
  • Understanding power or influence and using it for execution success
  • Developing organizational structures that foster information sharing, co-ordination and clear accountability
  • Developing effective controls and feedback mechanisms
  • Knowing how to create an execution-supportive culture
  • Exercising execution-biased leadership

The book goes on to describe in detail a model of strategy execution, with subsequent chapters discussing all of the above areas. The final chapter uses the example of mergers and acquisitions work to demonstrate the practical operation of the author’s strategy execution model.

In my view the author is quite right in asserting that it is far easier to create good strategy than it is to execute it well. The problem is that creating strategy tends to be enjoyable, whereas implementing it is often either dull or prone to conflict and resistance. Perhaps for the same reason, I found this book less appealing than many books I have read about strategy, although the information it contains is probably more critical to ultimate success.

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