Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Between Strategy and Success Lies Execution

Why Do We Undervalue Competent Management?

his one comes from the Sep-Oct, 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Between strategy and success lies the minor matter of execution. Execution in turn is dependent on the managers tasked with implementing the strategy.  After all, if a firm can’t get the operational basics right, it doesn’t matter how brilliant its strategy is. Execution is about figuring out the right way to do things, and then doing those things right, time after time.

Therein lies the rub. "Managerial competence takes effort, though: It requires sizable investments in people and processes throughout good times and bad. These investments, we argue, represent a major barrier to imitation."

Sep-Oct 2017 issue of
Harvard Business Review
The authors of the article use their research of "management practices across more than 12,000 firms and 34 countries." They rated companies' "18 practices in four areas: operations management,
performance monitoring, target setting, and talent management." These four areas, they believe are good-enough "proxies for general operational excellence."

The authors found clear laggards and clear "superstars" in their rankings. Not surprising, given the number of companies and the geographic spread of their survey. The laggards, for example, tended to have "promotions and rewards based on tenure or family connections." This begs the question, do companies where senior management has strong family connections are also more likely to be laggards? In either case, the authors found that family-run businesses had the weakest governance structures and lowest management scores on the survey. Lower scores translated to poorer financial outcomes.

Since this was also a longitudinal study in some ways, lasting several years, it also highlights the fact that changing management practices is not easy. The costs are high, and which may therefore also explain why so many companies pay only lip-service to improving management practices.

This is a useful and informative article. Leaders at companies, small and large, would do well to pay attention to the basics of management. The successful ones will be the ones who get these right. The ones who do not will die.

© 2017, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.