5 unconventional acts that align strategy and execution in a business

Posted on January 20th, 2016

Baffled by the result of a global survey which revealed that more than half of the senior executives don’t think that their company has a winning strategy and two thirds don’t think that their organization has the right capabilities to execute its strategy, Paul Leinwand, Cesare Mainardi and Art Kleiner set out to find and study examples of extraordinary companies that close the gap between strategy and execution. They found that companies that are great at both strategy and execution do not follow the existing dominant practices of their industries. Instead, they found that the leaders of these companies excel at five unconventional acts:

  1. These companies commit to an identity. They don’t chase multiple market opportunities, but have a clear vision about what they do best, developing a solid value proposition and building distinctive capabilities with sustainable effects. In our own words: they have a strategy that goes way beyond the boardroom, such that everyone in the organization can identify him- or herself with it.
  1. According to the leaders of the companies, the way to success doesn’t lie in adhering to the best practices of the industry and external benchmarking, but by translating strategy into the everyday. They design and build their own tailor-made capabilities that set them apart from the rest. In our own words: they don’t want to become one of the so many lookalikes, but rather, they dare to choose to be what they are, which is totally unique compared to anything else.
  1. To solve execution problems and drive change, these companies resist disruptive reorganizations and consider the culture of the enterprise as an asset rather than a nuisance. They utilize that culture, the deep-rooted belief and behavior that already exists in the company to work to their advantage. In our own words: they don’t adapt culture to strategy, but choose a strategy that fits the current culture that defines them.
  1. Conventionally a company might try to reduce costs along the line by cutting back everywhere, but the companies that were studied cut costs only for the purpose of growing stronger. They position their resources strategically, investing in their strengths and scrimping everything else. In our own words: they make clear strategic choices and stick to it, consistently
  1. These companies don’t try to simply become dynamic and flexible by responding to external change as rapidly as possible. Instead, they create the change needed to shape the future they envision. In our own words, they are guided by a clear vision of the future and dare to actually craft that future.

Focused on the fundamental questions about a company’s strategy and its execution, the leaders of winning companies consider these questions at the same time, in the same conversation with the same people, so that strategy and execution are closely integrated in every decision, thus closing the strategy-to-execution gap.


This post is written by Dr. Marco de Haas, CEO of S-Ray Diagnostics and is based on the article 5 Ways to Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap by Paul Leinwand, Cesare Mainardi and Art Kleiner, published in December 2015 in Harvard Business Review. Paul is Global Managing Director, Capabilities-Driven Strategy and Growth, with Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business. Cesare is the former CEO of Booz & Company and Strategy&. Together they are co-authors of several books including Strategy That Works: How winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap. Art is the editor-in-chief of PwC’s award-winning management magazine, strategy+business.

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