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Getting On With It:

Building Strategy Implementation as a Competitive Advantage

ABARIS Consulting
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The information in this document is provided for informational purposes only. ABARIS Consulting Inc. specifically
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fitness for a particular purpose.
The Strategy Cycle
You have developed your strategy, everyone seemed to support it and a year later, you still have not made any significant
progress. If this sounds like your business, do not despair, this is far more common than you might think and it can be
solved. Using a framework like our Strategy Implementation Framework (SIF), helps improve your ability to implement
your strategy and build your firm’s implementation capability into a powerful competitive advantage.

The strategy cycle provides a simple and well-known process that links the formulation of strategy with the implementation
and management of strategy. For simplicity, the formulation, implementation and management of strategy are shown in
the diagram as discrete steps. In actuality, there is significant interconnection between each of these steps, with the
process used in each step having an impact upon the others.


Manage Implement

The process starts with the formulation of the company’s strategy. For many private companies this strategy is focused
on growth and enhancement of their competitive position and is manifested through a series of projects. Like the
formulation stage, the implementation stage also establishes a series of projects, but this time focused on supporting the

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implementation of the strategy. The projects germinating from the formulation and implementation stages make up your
strategic project portfolio, which is the epicenter of your ability to realize upon your intended strategy. Your strategy is
managed through the review of performance measures, often viewed as a strategic dashboard and periodic formal

Your formulated strategy is the “input” to the Strategy Implementation Framework (SIF). The SIF has two interrelated
components; implementation factors (IF’s) and implementation processes (IP’s). The IF’s represents the general
departments within the company that need to be assessed for the impact the chosen strategy has upon them. With each
of the IF’s a gap analysis is conducted to determine what, if any, gaps there are between the current situation and what is
needed to fulfill the strategy. The IP’s represent those processes that need to be established and managed throughout the
implementation in order to realize a successful outcome.

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Strategy Implementation Framework (SIF)

Factors (IF) Sales &
PEOPLE Finance & Production Human
Marketing Admin Operations Resources IT / IS


Implementation Change
Processes (IP)

Performance Measures

(PM) Manage the process using Project Management Methodologies

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Implementation Factors (IF)
The implementation factors (IF’s) take a functional perspective because it is the way that most private companies both
view and manage their business. The five IF components include, Sales & Marketing, Finance & Administration,
Production Operations, Human Resources and Information Technology & Systems. The focus of the IF’s is to conduct a
gap analysis on each area of the business. Using the analysis of the current business, (done during the strategy
formulation process), a gap analysis is conducted to determine the company’s needs in order to fulfill its chosen strategy.
ABARIS Consulting has developed proprietary tools that obtain detailed information regarding the various implementation
factors (IF’s) within a company in an effective and efficient manner; thereby obtaining maximum information with minimal
disruption to your business.

Although the implementation factors (IF’s) are presented as linear components in the SIF model (previous page) the inter-
connection between the implementation factors (IF’s) and the chosen strategy is best represented in the following
Sales &

Technology Finance &
& Systems Admin

Production / Human
Operations Resources

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Sales & Marketing
Marketing refers to those aspects of your business focused on building top line growth. This assesses your sales and
marketing activities, as they relate to price, products, distribution, promotion, customer buying criteria, customer buying
process, internal sales and marketing processes, sales structure and the roles and responsibilities of those involved in
these activities.

Finance & Administration

For many private companies the area of finance is one of the most sophisticated and regulated areas of the business. The
need for financial reporting, tax reporting, accounting standards, managing costs and a profit focus all support the
development of a structure that captures and reports the financial activities within a business. Consequently, the
information used in the analysis of the finance and administration of the business is usually relatively reliable compared to
the information from other sources.

Information Technology & Systems

Systems relates to the information technology and systems that you use to support your business. This can involve the
ability for your system and technology to support the value chain processes within your business as well as the access to
correct and timely information to make business decisions.

Production Operations
Production operations relates to the processes and equipment (if applicable) you use in your business to produce the
products and services that you sell to generate revenue. This is different for manufacturing, distribution and service

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companies. Regardless of what type of business you are in, the area of production operations is focused on those
components that support the building of the products and services that you sell.

Human Resources
For most private companies human resources boil down to roles and responsibilities, compensation, individual
performance and organizational structure. Regardless of what business you are in, or what strategy you are trying to
implement, it ultimately requires people and resources to make it happen. Structure represents the organizational
structure through the definition of roles, reporting relationships and governance structure. An individual’s primary
connection to the company is through his or her role; that role allows him or her to meet a variety of personal needs, from
providing income for food and shelter to supporting self-actualization. Understanding the current structure and the
structure required to effectively align with your chosen strategy ensures that the company organizes itself correctly and
doesn’t fall into the trap of continual restructuring.

The idea of dealing with something as esoteric as culture is foreign to most private companies. Culture refers to the
invisible glue that binds the business. It includes business values, ways of thinking, management styles, decision-making
processes, perspectives regarding acceptable behavior and so forth. Of all the barriers that impact a company’s ability to
formulate and effectively implement its strategy – culture is probably the largest and often least addressed component.
As Louis Gerstner has said;

“I came to see in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an
organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value. ”

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Culture is not just a big business issue. It also exits in every private company. Culture is rarely addressed because it is
difficult to identify, measure and change. Addressing business culture in a private company requires a simple diagnostic
tool to describe and assess the current culture, understand which culture is most beneficial for the new strategy (this is the
desired culture), link the desired culture to specific management skills that can be assessed and measured, establish
management development programs to build the necessary skills and have a systematic and flexible process for doing it.
As part of our Growing Your Business practice, ABARIS Consulting has the tools and skill to do this. Although culture is
difficult to get your “hands around”, it is important to address because, “culture trumps strategy …… every time”. In
other words, unless your culture is aligned to your strategy and the structure of your business; your strategy will never
achieve what you envisaged during the strategy formulation process.

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Implementation Processes (IP’s)

The second interrelated component of the Strategy Implementation Framework (SIF) is the Implementation Processes
(IP’s). This consists of four interconnected processes that cut across all of the Implementation Factors, are on-going
throughout the strategy implementation process and are crucial to effectively implementing and sustaining your strategy.
The Implementation Processes include leadership, change, communication and performance measures. Addressing
these four inter-related IP’s provides the process framework needed to effectively implement your company’s strategy.

Leadership addresses the role management, key staff and stakeholders play in the implementation process and includes
information flow and decision-making processes. The drive to implement the strategy must be visibly led by the
company’s leadership. This is not an option. Visible leadership sends a strong signal regarding the level of importance of
the strategy to the company and the importance of the process, which improves the level of acceptance. For the purpose
of driving the implementation process leadership is about visible support, consistent behaviors, timely and public reward
of others behaviors, maintaining the discipline to stay focused on the chosen initiatives, the attitude to motivate others,
perseverance to remain the course, willingness to really listen to others and the courage to make difficult decisions.
Although leadership can be successfully positioned in the implementation process as a single project, in our experience,
we have found incorporating leadership as a component within each of the other projects has been more successful.

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If there is one issue that constantly gets raised as an area that is not sufficiently addressed when implementing strategy, it
is communication. You cannot over communicate. While the management team may feel they are solely responsible for
communication, the fact is they are a key player in the communication process but certainly not the only player.
Communication needs to include what you are going to do, why you are doing it, how people will be involved in the
process and the expected timelines. As well, it is important to commit to providing updates on a regular basis of how the
process is going and what has been achieved. In the absence of information, people will make it up themselves. When
people make it up, it is usually worse than reality. Your communication process needs to take a variety of forms, including
staff meetings, newsletters, town hall forums, webinars, one-on-one meetings, road shows, etc. Fundamentally, it requires
the inclusion of a communication plan as one of the implementation projects.

Change”, or more precisely the “fear of change” is a significant impediment to successful strategy implementation.
Strategy is ultimately about the allocation of resources to those areas that will have the greatest positive impact upon the
business. Consequently, the implementation of strategy has the potential to have a significant impact on the way the
company operates. People know this. They know the potential changes driven by a new strategy can be highly disruptive
to the status quo. This can make implementation very difficult and is captured in a quote from John S. Hammond, Ralph L.
Keeney, and Howard Raiffa who noted:

“In business, where sins of commission (doing something) tend to be punished much more severely than sins of omission
(doing nothing), the status quo holds a particularly strong attraction”.

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Managing change requires dealing with a few specific questions. The strategy that you have developed provides the
context for the change by addressing the questions of “where are we now”, where are we going” and “how will we get
there”. As most people want to know and understand the why, the process used to formulate your strategy can have a
meaningful impact on the staff’s receptivity to change. If your strategy formulation process included staff at all levels that
conducted a meaningful analysis into issues so as to allow them to get to the root-causes of issues and fully participate in
the development of solutions, then they have a meaningful understanding of the answers to these questions and
consequently have a much higher then usual receptivity to change. Good implementation starts with the strategy
formulation process. This is not to imply that all staff need or should be involved in the strategic decision-making process.
Not at all. What is important to take away is that constructing your strategy process to enable meaningful engagement in
those areas of the process that makes sense can significantly improve your ability to effectively implement your strategy
once it is determined.

An ancient Chinese proverb summarizes this point, “Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and
I'll understand.”

The benefits of a well thought out and articulated strategy not only answers the questions where are we now, where are
we going and how will we get there, but also establishes the compelling case for change and the associated urgency.
People are more willing to change when faced with a crisis. Sharing the compelling case for change developed through
the strategy formulation process creates that urgency and helps the company become more receptive to the change.

A successful change management plan prepares the company for change, creates the sense of urgency for change,
shows the changes that are needed, ensures people feel safe, not comfortable, helps the change take place and brings

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closure to the change so people know when they’re done. As with both leadership and communication, dealing with
change needs to be incorporated into the implementation process as a key project.

Performance Measures
A performance dashboard or scorecard is usually established as a part of the strategy formulation process to ensure there
is a way to measure the company’s progress towards its strategy. Management teams are generally rewarded for “getting
things done.” They have learned that keeping the day-to-day business working effectively and delivering upon their
performance objectives leads to reward (qualitative and/or quantitative) and new and better opportunities. It can be
difficult for some to appreciate the benefit of longer-term thinking and the delayed results and associated rewards
provided with longer-term strategic horizons. Consequently, any new strategy needs to address the existing dashboards
and scorecards and ensure they are adjusted to reflect the new strategy and associated projects developed to deliver
upon that strategy.

As Jack Welch has said, “"What you measure is what you get. What you reward is what you get. ... By not aligning
measurements and rewards, you often get what you're not looking for."

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Project Management (PM)

Project management is not one of the IF’s or IP’s but rather the methodology by which the projects derived from them are
managed. For most private companies, their strategy it is focused on growing the business. Consequently, when the
strategy is formulated it usually only includes projects specifically focused on business growth. It is critical that once the
“growth projects” have been established that the management team uses the SIF model to ascertain the implications of
the growth projects on the business and then formulate projects to address them. This is achieved by using the
Implementation Factors portion of the SIF. In addition to these projects, you also need to include projects for your
Implementation Processes. Also, don’t forget the existing projects that are currently being undertaken. These also need
to be reviewed with regards to their relevance to your chosen strategy. Consequently, the process of strategy formulation
and use of the Strategy Implementation Framework is to establish the key list of projects that will allow you to grow your
business. This list of growth, IF, IP and existing projects make up your strategic project portfolio. Your strategic project
portfolio is the essence of how you implement your strategy.

Your Strategic Project Portfolio will consist of:

• Projects that support key changes needed in each area;
• Projects that address leadership, communication, change and performance measures; and
• Existing projects that support the new strategy.

Unlike the other components of the SIF, project management does not generate a project; rather it is the methodology by
which you proactively manage your strategic project portfolio. It is important to keep the process simple. At ABARIS

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Consulting we maintain simplicity in the process by using a one-page project summary sheet to communicate the status of
all projects, and keep the management of the individual projects to using project charters and Gantt charts whenever
possible. These simple tools will allow you to effectively plan and manage the implementation of your strategic project

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The Strategic Implementation Framework (SIF) aligns with the way that you currently manage your business and
separates the analysis of your current business from the processes needed to effectively implement your strategy. The
SIF easily aligns and flows naturally from your strategy. Because of its design, the SIF can be scaled to fit your specific
needs and can be customized to address only those components of the framework that need to be addressed within your
business. This allows a solution customized to your needs without the costs of building a specific solution from scratch.
We have a large number of proprietary and non-proprietary tools that can be used within each component of the
framework to ensure that the right solution is delivered to meet your specific needs.

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For More Information
To access information using the Internet, go to: http://www.abarisconsulting.com

For more information, call Ron Robinson, President ABARIS Consulting at 519 • 472 • 9788 or email us at info@abarisconsulting.com

Copyright ©2010 ABARIS Consulting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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