The third post in a series based on the National Center for the Middle Market’s research report, Strategic Planning for Growth: How Middle Market Companies Map Their Futures, this post explains best practices for strategy execution used by high-performance middle market companies.

The best laid plans often go awry, or so the common saying goes. No doubt, middle market companies aiming to execute their strategic visions will face challenges that could undermine their successes, such as securing the needed financial resources, effectively translating the strategy into specific goals, and freeing up the bandwidth or having the right talent in place to turn plans into reality.

Despite the obstacles, companies can increase their odds of executing according to plan by taking the right steps before, during, and post execution. By making a commitment to continually work on the business, and not just in it, high-performance organizations accomplish more of what they set out to achieve. Our recent research reveals several specific actions high-performance companies take throughout the strategy process that translate into higher executional satisfaction and more robust growth.

Pre-execution:

  • Clearly define your strategy.

    A well-defined strategy is easier to execute. Companies that can clearly express their fundamental purpose—what they do, who they serve, and what value they offer—are three times as likely to be satisfied with execution than peers who can’t clearly articulate the overarching direction of the business.

  • Encourage bottom-up input during the strategy development process.

    Executional satisfaction increases from 29% to 71% when companies allow ideas from employees at all levels of the organization to influence strategy. In other words, the more employees are involved in creating the strategy, the more invested they will be in ensuring its ultimate success.

During execution:

  • Align strategy with all business processes.

    Companies that are most satisfied with strategic execution are significantly more likely than their peers to ensure strategy is infused into every aspect of the business, and not just financial decisions, investments, and major initiatives. They map everything back to strategy, including innovation, technology planning, and human resources activities such as hiring, compensation, and incentives and rewards.

  • Tie employee performance to strategic KPIs.

    High-performance middle market organizations are much more likely than their peers to assign individual employee or departmental KPIs that are specifically linked to corporate strategy. In this way, they connect the work employees do on an everyday basis to the bigger strategic picture. Employees are more engaged and all of the organization’s efforts drive toward the strategic plan.

Post-execution:

  • Regularly review strategy execution and provide feedback.

    The more frequently a company reviews execution and gauges progress, the more satisfied it is with the results. The best executers are more likely to hold departmental meetings and company-wide town halls to discuss strategy execution. They give employees updates on progress toward goals at least monthly, and they provide specific feedback about how employee performance contributes to strategic objectives.

  • Stay flexible and apply learnings to continuously improve.

    Companies that are satisfied with execution are more likely to say that their strategy is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the market. What they learn during the execution process is funneled back into improving and fine-tuning the strategy development and strategy definition processes. This creates a virtuous circle that continually improves all facets of strategy and moves businesses ever closer to their ultimate strategic vision.

Satisfaction with strategy execution is clearly aligned with faster growth.

When companies put in the effort to develop and define a strategy and keep the entire organization involved in execution on an ongoing basis, they grow faster and more successfully achieve their strategic vision. For the full research findings on all strategy best practices that help drive growth, download the Center’s full report, Strategic Planning for Growth: How Middle Market Companies Map Their Futures.






This post is part of a larger research project by the National Center for the Middle Market. Get the full picture through the resources below: