Teams are only as effective as the system in which they operate. So when teams are struggling to execute, it’s worth taking a step back to understand the systemic challenges.
Strategy and execution may seem relatively independent of one another, but in fact they are heavily interdependent. Recently I put this diagram together for a client to try and explain the relationship between strategy, structure and process (execution).
It all begins with strategy. Strategy, or a lack of it, causes two major problems:
Lack of Alignment
Ideally team structure should fall out of the strategy. Teams should be formed to align around strategic goals which they can independently achieve.
When teams are poorly aligned, it creates a network of dependencies which introduces a heavy process burden and long delays. That reduces speed of learning and speed of execution.
Lack of Focus
While all companies believe they have a strategy, they are often weak — by which I mean they don’t enable priorities to be determined and trade offs to be made. A clear strategy should enable better decision making. When it fails to do that, everything is a priority and your execution pipeline becomes a traffic jam. Teams lack focus, they are spread too thin and this again results in poor execution.
Strategy depends on execution — there is no point in having a great strategy if you cannot deliver on it. Likewise efficient execution depends on having a clear strategy.
Teams are only as good as the system in which they operate. If we want high performing teams, we have to enable them by creating well designed systems which set them up for success.