If its execution is sloppy, the best vision and the best marketing plan in the world will fall flat and yield disappointing returns. In fact, a recent survey of more than 400 CEOs around the world found that executional excellence was their greatest challenge.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, which mentioned that survey, took the challenge of execution one step further, advocating that it is impossible for a good strategy to be executed poorly.
The reason is that execution itself is a key pillar of strategy and that trying to separate the two only leads to confusion. The same obsession with detail must be used in both the process of developing the strategy and the process of executing the strategy. Neither solid strategy nor effective execution can stand alone with regard to improving your company’s marketing, but the combination of the two will generate excellent returns.
Improving implementation is often easier said than done, but tools such as Gantt charts can facilitate the process. A Gantt chart marketing template enables you to visualize all of the elements of your strategy simultaneously and to expand any single initiative within it to see all of its moving parts.
A Gantt chart forces you to assign deadlines for each stage of an initiative and hold team members accountable for their designated tasks so that the overarching plan has the best chance of staying on track. Such a structure ensures that all team members are on the same page, that all channels are working in symbiosis with one another, and that implementation dates for each initiative are set and adhered to.
In the final analysis, the time invested in creating a Gantt chart will pay back handsomely as initiatives are implemented more efficiently and effectively. Our Gantt chart software of choice is Smartsheet, but you can research and utilize the dozens of other Gantt chart software programs that are available.
Every strategy inevitably unravels in some way during the execution phase. When an unexpected issue or surprising opportunity comes up, you should be ready to adjust in real time. Such adjustment will occasionally be an overarching strategic shift. In general, however, only minor shifting of resources or people is necessary.
Regardless, flexibility is key. By being willing to adjust your company’s distribution of resources and people at a moment’s notice, you will be able to adjust to any wrench thrown in the path of your company’s strategic plan.
Of course, the ability to quickly realign key resources should not be seen as a cure-all. Although moving resources may solve a temporary problem, it doesn’t always get at the root of the issue. If one product suddenly begins to drastically outsell another product, shifting more capital and people to the successful product makes sense. In the long term, however, it is crucial to understand why one product failed and one product succeeded. The answer to that question will shed light on internal company processes and the overall market and may even help your company to turn around the unsuccessful product, making it successful again.
This is an example of an aspect of execution in which lower-level team members are particularly important. Because they are often more intimately involved with customers and products than are upper-level executives, support-level employees have a better understanding of issues on the ground. They are also the first ones to react to most crises and opportunities. If your strategy has been communicated and understood throughout the horizontal hierarchy, lower-level staff will be able to troubleshoot and improve its execution. •
Chris Ciunci is founder and managing partner of TribalVision, which has offices in Warwick, Boston and New York.