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ARTICLE: How the Most Successful Teams Bridge the Strategy-Execution Gap

Updated: May 1


“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

~Japanese proverb

In a November HBR.org article, we learn research on what senior leaders must do to close the strategy-to-execution gap, as well as how the most successful teams bridge the gap.

Here is how these teams spend their time and the critical behaviors they engage in:

Commit to an identity.

  • High-performing teams spend nearly 20% more time (compared to low-performing teams) defining strategy (i.e., translating a high-level vision into clear actionable goals).

  • Successful teams spend 12% more time aligning the organization around that strategy through frequent internal communications and driving a consistent message downward into the organization.

Translate strategy into everyday processes and capabilities.

  • High-performing teams spend over 25% more time focusing the enterprise than their lower-performing peers. That time is spent establishing financial and operational metrics, aligning goals with overarching strategy, allocating resources, and reviewing key metrics.

  • Successful teams spend 14% more time checking their progress against strategic goals by reviewing key metrics and shifting resources accordingly.

Concentrate on the unique cultural factors that fuel success.

  • High-performing teams spend 28% more time engaging the organization in ongoing dialogue about cultural enablers and barriers to execution. This includes forums for employees to voice concerns via surveys (e.g., employee engagement) and actual dialogue.

  • Those same teams invest almost one-third more time in optimizing talent capabilities by reviewing development plans, ensuring that succession plans are in place, and evaluating compensation plans to be competitive.

  • High-performing teams, compared to lower-performing teams, spend 54% more time first setting direction, crafting a vision that serves as a guiding light for decisions regarding resources.

  • Lower-performing teams spend an astounding 83% more time fire-fighting and dealing with issues at a tactical rather than strategic level.

Shape the future.

  • Successful teams spend 25.3% more time influencing high-level stakeholders by identifying their needs and managing their expectations.

  • High-performing teams spend 13.2% more time planning for the future by setting direction, creating a vision, and defining their strategy.

  • They respond to change in the present (20.7% more effectively than lower-performing teams), positioning the enterprise for future success. This is consistent with much of the existing literature around the importance of agility in high-performing teams.

Read the full HBR.org article here.


© 2016 by Boylston Strategic Leadership Associates.

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