I recently read a Harvard Business Review article on strategy execution that had me rethinking how strategies are executed. In many ways, the article reminded me of my findings in my dissertation research on the merger of city archives and a county archives. I was mystified about why the archives merger succeeded despite the change process going against the conventional wisdom of change management theory.
According to the research by the authors (Donald Sull, Rebbeca Homkes, and Charles Sull), the success of strategy execution depends on agility. Agility is defined as how well different parts of the organization coordinate while seizing opportunities that are aligned with the organization’s strategy. They explain why this is so by dispelling five commonly-held beliefs about strategy execution:
Myth 1 – Execution means alignment
Myth 2 – Execution means sticking to the plan
Myth 3 – Communication equals understanding
Myth 4 – A performance culture drives execution
Myth 5 – Execution should be driven from the top
What most interested me about the article was the importance of organizational agility in executing on the strategy. That is why it is necessary for organizational units need good cross-collaboration abilities with each other. This way, the units can work together in spotting emerging opportunities and work together to take advantage of the opportunities. This reminds me of Colonel Boyd’s OODA Loop and his thinking on strategy.
Now, why the article reminded me of my dissertation research is how the real change in the archives merger was driven by the employees and not the top management. The communicated change vision from the top was general and not enough to develop a detailed plan for the merger. This corresponds to Sull, Homkes, and Sull’s research finding that strategic execution should not be solely driven from the top.
I also feel confident in reading the HBR article that my decision to combine organizational health with organizational agility is the right way to approach building a new theory of public administration.