Perhaps everyone has the experience of having worked with or for a visionary. Visionaries don’t always bring game changing ideas to the table but they understand how to see the future and what is possible – even amongst activities most of us see as mundane. They bring excitement and a forward-looking attitude to the table.
On the other hand, perhaps many have also worked for someone who executes very well. Execution is a critical component of doing the work of a business but is often focused on relentlessly improving the present with little thought for long haul. These two roles have often been portrayed as diametrically opposed yet both are fundamental to running a successful business. However, in this new age of global digital disruption across every industry, there is a hybrid concept that represents the future of success - strategic execution.
Finding people who can execute strategically is easy to talk about yet difficult to do especially for digital transformation. Strategic execution leads to success by helping people understand the vision and long-term goals but not get stuck in a paralyzed state of action. It is about focusing the conversation, taking action and moving a project or team forward.
Strategic execution and the people who can lead well in the digital age are defined by five key actions:
1. Expertize themselves – Strategic execution requires expertise. Leaders who execute strategically understand they have themselves to experts to the point that they understand the people, systems, processes and technologies driving transformation and change. The old adage of not needing to know the “ins and outs” is not true. In order to drive strategy while executing successfully with rapidly changing technologies, constantly renewing expertise will mean the difference between success and failure personally and for a business.
2. Create a vision – Having a vision for an end state is essential to understand the road a team needs to exert in order to arrive there. The vision needs to have a value proposition that immediately resonates, connects with others and delivers results quickly. Traditional strategic and project management methods have relevance but to create value today, things have to move fast as a difference of time can mean the difference of relevance and profitability.
3. Enroll others - An expert with a vision has to enroll others in the plan and then motivate them to get work done. A digital leader will understand how to use his or her expertise to create a vision, enroll others by generating excitement with carefully crafted communication, and then using that excitement to motivate and drive results.
4. Focus conversations – It’s no surprise that with the sheer amount of information, options and people that are involved in making decisions and doing work, the ability to mute noise and focus conversations around real needs and actions to execute is essential to leadership in digital. Because people are so immersed in technology every day, opinions will abound and everywhere you turn, the next big thing will be emerging. Focusing conversations is about letting in what needs to be heard (at various volumes) but then communicating around action and creating results.
5. Enable change – If there is one truth that will persist, it’s that change is inevitable. Knowing that in the digital age, however, is useless without knowing how to enable it to happen with as little resistance as possible. The digital leader who effectively executes strategically will be able to remove barriers and inspire others to embrace change while at the same time always be reinventing himself or herself.
In order for a company to be successful, it needs people who can strategically execute. At the same time, professionals who want to succeed in today’s digital marketplace need to develop the skills to execute strategically to create value for their organizations and develop their careers.
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