Flawless execution? Develop business and leadership skills

Much has been said and written on the challenges of strategy execution. It is well understood that most strategies fail due to ineffective execution. Getting people to execute strategy as per strategic intent is one of the major causes for a CEO’s sleepless nights. An organization’s biggest strategic challenge isn’t strategic thinking — it’s strategic acting.

Several studies over the years have tried to establish the connection between people skills and strategy execution. An IBM’s 2009 report titled “Getting Smart About Your Workforce: Why Analytics Matter[1],” found that “It is vital to define the requisite knowledge, skills, and capability requirements needed for the execution of business strategy. Organizations must have a firm understanding of what skills and capabilities they have in-house, where gaps exist, and the best ways to fill those gaps.”

Another IBM 2010 Global CEO Study[2] – “Capitalizing on Complexity, threw up an interesting statistic – while getting closer to customer was a number 1 imperative for 88% CEO’s, developing the people skills of their employees to execute strategy was equally important for 81% of CEO’s surveyed.”

In 2010, the Economist Intelligence Unit released research study findings, which established that a lack of business acumen skills needed to achieve the goals of the strategy led to failure in implementation of strategy [3]. The survey of more than 330 senior leaders, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that business-skills shortage is a key challenge to successful strategy execution. The study unearthed that two-thirds of respondents said a lack of business acumen in their organization significantly limits their ability to accomplish strategic goals. The report concluded that the highest-performing organizations have taken steps to ensure they have the business acumen they need among managers and senior leaders and thus ensure consistent business performance.

A recent Business Readiness Survey research study[4] released in March 2017 by Advantexe, also confirms the above findings. The study aimed to understand how employees at any level of a company recognize their strategy and to assess if they had the skills to execute it so that company and individual goals could be met. Interestingly, the study showed that most employees have a clear understanding of the company strategy but struggled to execute it, primarily due to a gap in the business acumen and skills needed to execute strategy. The study also confirmed that employees with a stronger comfort level in core business skills had significantly higher levels of goal achievement.

Another area where there is a clear deficit is in the area of Leadership development. We need leaders who are good at strategy execution. Leaders are the ones who drive strategy through the organisation and building execution – focused leadership capabilites at all levels is important.

Building employees capability to execute strategy is central to superior execution. Organizations need to take cognizance of the fact that ultimately it is not businesses that create value- it’s their people who create value. Upgrading their employees competence by sharpening Business skills and Leadership development is the significant differentiator for excellent execution.


[1] IBM 2009 study Getting Smart About Your Workforce: Why Analytics Matter https://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/bus/pdf/getting-smart-about-your-workforce_wp_final.pdf

[2] Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?htmlfid=GBE03297USEN&appname=wwwsearch

[3] Skills Mismatch: Does Business Acumen Enable Strategy Execution? Survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit https://www.bts.com/docs/white-papers/skills-mismatch-business-acumen-and-strategy-execution-research

[4] Business Readiness Research Report – 2017 http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/03/prweb14182512.htm