A Manager’s Guide to Successful Strategy Implementation (2024)

To address business challenges and concerns, organizations must constantly monitor, evaluate, and adjust their strategic initiatives. When it’s time to implement a new strategy, it’s typically up to managers to do so.

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What Is Strategy Implementation?

According to the online course Strategy Execution, strategy implementation is the process of turning plans into action to reach business goals and objectives. In other words, it’s the art of getting stuff done.

Your organization’s success rests on your ability to implement decisions and execute processes efficiently, effectively, and consistently. Yet, that’s often easier said than done.

“If you've looked at the news lately, you've probably seen stories of businesses with great strategies that have failed,” says Harvard Business School Professor Robert Simons, who teaches Strategy Execution. “In each, we find a business strategy that was well formulated but poorly executed.”

You can learn a lot from failed strategies, and understanding how to implement a successful one is vital to leading change. Here are steps you can take to effectively roll out your business strategy.

4 Steps in the Strategy Implementation Process

1. Handle Tension

Making tough choices isn’t easy, and you need to manage any tension that arises with change.

In strategy implementation, tension often exists between innovating to grow your business and controlling internal processes and procedures.

For example, leaders at ride-hailing company Uber have faced challenges in balancing growth and control. While Uber has transformed the transportation industry, its need to expand has led to several instances of misconduct due to insufficient internal controls.

You can manage tension and find balance by designing and implementing levers of control, which comprise:

  • Belief systems: Organizational definitions you communicate and reinforce to provide direction to employees
  • Boundary systems: Negatively phrased statements that tell employees what behaviors are forbidden
  • Diagnostic control systems: Formal information systems that help monitor organizational outcomes
  • Interactive control systems: Formal systems managers use to involve themselves in subordinates' decisions that impact strategic uncertainties

These levers help create opposing forces throughout strategy implementation that continuously balance each other. While half of them (belief systems and interactive control systems) promote innovation and inspiration, the others (boundary systems and diagnostic control systems) establish boundaries and threats of punishment when employees cross the line.

To ensure your strategy execution succeeds, use the power of tension when designing management control systems.

2. Align Job Design to Strategy

No matter how well-formulated your business strategy is, it can’t succeed without your team. To prime employees for success, it’s essential to design jobs with strategy in mind.

Job design is structuring jobs’ components to enhance organizational efficiency. Its common elements include task allocation, job development, and feedback and communication.

“Job design is a critical part of strategy execution,” Simons says in Strategy Execution. “If individuals don't have the resources they need and aren’t accountable in the right way, they won’t be able to work to their potential.”

According to Simons, you can use the Job Design Optimization Tool (JDOT) to design or test jobs by analyzing their balance of demands and resources.

The tool prompts you to consider:

  • What resources do employees have to get the job done?
  • What measure will we use to evaluate their performance?
  • Who must they influence to achieve their goals?
  • How much support can they expect when reaching out for help?

By answering these questions and ensuring they align with your strategy, employees can directly support your initiatives.

3. Inspire Employee Buy-In

Even if you position employees for success through effective job design, you must still gain their buy-in for strategic goals. According to a Gallup survey, organizations with strong employee engagement experience 10 percent greater customer loyalty and 23 percent higher profitability.

You can garner their support by communicating your organization’s core values—its purpose that impacts what employees should do and how they should act.

According to Strategy Execution, effective core values possess two attributes:

  • Inspiration: They make employees proud of where they work.
  • Guidance: They ensure employees know whose interests to prioritize when making difficult decisions.

Communicating your organization’s core values doesn’t just help bolster support for strategic initiatives; it also provides employees with a purpose to improve performance and workplace accountability.

Another useful tool is ranking systems.

“Ranking systems—which are quite common in practice—have really good features that managers can use to stimulate performance,” says HBS Professor Susan Gallani in Strategy Execution.

Ranking systems provide clear measures—like leadership capabilities—for employees to determine their ownership in your business strategy. Gallani says establishing such measures helps eliminate unknowns that create anxiety.

“What the ranking system does—it takes that shock away,” Gallani says in Strategy Execution. “Everybody's compared at the same level, and that's good because it really highlights the individual contribution of different workers and points out who did better and who did worse.”

By implementing ranking systems, achievement-driven employees can be more likely to invest in your business strategy.

Related: How to Get Employee Buy-In to Execute Your Strategic Initiatives

4. Manage Risk

Even if you take these steps when implementing your business strategy, your initiatives can still fail.

“Competing successfully in any industry involves some level of risk,” Simons says in Strategy Execution. “But high-performing businesses with high-pressure cultures are especially vulnerable. As a manager, you need to know how and why these risks arise and how to avoid them.”

Engaging in risk management—the systematic process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating threats or uncertainties that can affect your organization—is crucial to long-term success.

Three types of pressures that make you vulnerable to risk are:

  • Growth
  • Culture
  • Information management

Business risks aren’t always obvious, making it critical to identify unexpected events or conditions that could impede your organization’s business strategy.

“I think one of the challenges firms face is the ability to properly identify their risks,” says HBS Professor Eugene Soltes in Strategy Execution.

For example, the automotive industry heavily relies on semiconductors. However, due to an unexpected disruption in manufacturing priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies had to navigate production during a semiconductor shortage.

By understanding your strategy’s vulnerabilities, you can prevent failures because of unanticipated events and protect your organization from challenges like increased market competition, evolving technologies, and shifting customer needs.

Learn How to Oversee Strategy Implementation

Implementing strategy successfully is challenging.

By taking an online strategy course, such as Strategy Execution, you can draw insights from real-world business examples and build the strategy execution skills and knowledge to achieve your organization’s objectives.

Do you want to improve your strategy implementation? Explore Strategy Execution—one of our online strategy courses—and download our free strategy e-book to take the first step toward doing so.

This post was updated and republished on January 16, 2024. It was originally published on February 25, 2020.

A Manager’s Guide to Successful Strategy Implementation (2024)


What are the key steps to a successful strategy implementation? ›

Six steps to a successful strategy implementation plan
  1. Step 1: Have an action plan. ...
  2. Step 2: Set clear goals. ...
  3. Step 3: Assign responsibilities and roles. ...
  4. Step 4: Execute your strategic plan. ...
  5. Step 5: Get progress updates and communicate often. ...
  6. Step 6: Stay focused on the strategy.

What are the 5 steps of strategy implementation process? ›

The Five Stages of the Strategic Management Process
  • Clarify Your Vision. The purpose of goal-setting is to clarify the vision for your business. ...
  • Gather and Analyze Information. ...
  • Formulate a Strategy. ...
  • Implement Your Strategy. ...
  • Evaluate and Control.

How do managers implement strategy? ›

To implement a new strategy, you first must identify clear and attainable goals. As with all things, communication is key. Your goals should include your vision and mission statements, long-term goals, and KPIs.

What are the 5 P's model of strategy implementation? ›

Mintzberg's 5 Ps of Strategy include Plan, Ploy, Pattern, Position, and Perspective. Plan refers to a deliberate course of action that outlines the steps necessary to achieve a specific goal. Ploy refers to a maneuver or tactic used to gain an advantage over competitors.

What are the three 3 factors to consider in strategy implementation? ›

Before moving into a strategy implementation and execution process, make sure your strategic plan checks off the following boxes:
  • You have a clear vision of the future.
  • Your plan articulates your mission and core values.
  • You have a current state analysis that articulates where you are today.
Apr 17, 2024

What elements are most important to a successful his implementation? ›

Here are the key elements to help you execute your strategy successfully.
  1. Clarity. How clear is your strategic plan? ...
  2. Alignment. Doing the right thing is essential for successful strategy implementation. ...
  3. Accountability. ...
  4. Tracking. ...
  5. Commitment.
Jun 14, 2022

Which factor is crucial for successful strategy implementation? ›

The factors for effectively implementing strategies relate to the need for reinforcement, commitment, organizational culture, managerial skills, clear communication and involvement to reduce inconsistencies between the expected and current organizational state without neglecting coordination and management mechanisms.

What makes a good implementation plan? ›

A project implementation plan lays out project objectives, timelines, costs, resources, and all the aspects of the project. Consider it a battle plan your team will follow to perform the tasks, achieve the goals, and overcome the obstacles.

What are the major issues in strategy implementation? ›

Top 10 Organizational Challenges in Strategy Implementation
  • Lack of 'Individual Ownership & Joint Accountability' for organization goals.
  • Non-synchronized effort between leaders/functions in applying a strategy.
  • Budgetary Planning, Strategic Planning & Performance Planning non-synchronized.

What are the key concepts in strategy implementation? ›

Management issues central to strategy implementation include establishing annual objectives, devising policies, allocating resources, altering an existing organizational structure, restructuring and reengineering, revising reward and incentive plans, minimizing resistance to change, matching managers with strategy, ...

What are the techniques of strategic implementation? ›

Strategic implementation is a process of turning plans into action using a specified strategy. The five steps of the strategic implementation process are: define your goals, do the research, create a strategy, implement the strategy, evaluate and control. Network analysis is a defined plan of strategic implementation.

What are the 4 implementation strategies? ›

The 4 ERP implementation strategies are phased rollout, parallel adoption, pilot plan, and hybrid. Adding an enterprise resource planning software to your businesses can provide a lot of benefits, such as automating time-consuming manual tasks and streamlining back office operations.

What are the 7 steps to implement a business strategy? ›

How to Strategic Plan in 7 Steps
  • Step 1: Environmental Scan. ...
  • Step 2: Internal Analysis. ...
  • Step 3: Strategic Direction. ...
  • Step 4: Develop Goals and Objectives. ...
  • Step 5: Define Metrics, Set Timelines, and Track Progress. ...
  • Step 6: Write and Publish a Strategic Plan. ...
  • Step 7: Plan for Implementation and the Future.
Apr 26, 2022

What are key implementation strategies? ›

Implementation process strategies enable an innovation to be planned and delivered over the different stages of implementation. These include assessing the context, engaging with key stakeholders, and monitoring implementation and making improvements.

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