The Strategy Implementation Gap

James Bawtree and Michael Young put pen to paper to write a guide for executives on achieving successful strategy implementation through project delivery.

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PREVIEW INTRODUCTION

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PENING THOUGHTS FROM JAMES

This book aims to help busy executives deliver their strategic goals in a sustainable, efficient and effective way through projects. It includes input from many of our readers and supporters — so thank you for overseeing and delivering projects and programs we have reviewed and optimised, attending our training courses, and interacting with us at conferences and workshops. All these touch points assisted us with the knowledge and the stories we have included for your reading pleasure!

So, to start with a story. In early 2018, an executive acquaintance mentioned to me informally at a networking event that he was moving to Brisbane, and had an interview lined up for a managerial role with a financial services company. He said that when thinking about his approach to the interview, he wondered “what would James do?” I replied: “A review.” He said “yes” and added that a consultancy had recently completed a review of the company, which would be a great baseline from which to work.

When starting anything new, it is critical to measure the current environment before making any changes. It allows you to validate the measurable difference of any changes you do make.We have seen many strategic plans beautifully crafted by a team of clearly very smart business executives, supported by equally smart consultants. The plans looked great and read well, but did not bear any resemblance to what was actually happening in the business executives’ organisation.

Early in my career, as a very driven project engineer and then later as a project and program management consultant and trainer wishing to climb the corporate ladder, I observed this behaviour and thought it odd there was always a disconnect. The strategic plan’s stated goals never seemed to align with the organisation’s practices or achievements and this became my purpose — to professionalise project management from strategy to delivery. I hope you enjoy the book, and feel free to let me know your key takes-out or planned actions.

 

OPENING THOUGHTS FROM MICHAEL

Having worked with hundreds of organisations as a management consultant for more than 20 years, I have been constantly amazed, and also somewhat shocked, that almost all of them had major issues achieving their stated strategic goals or objectives. These organisations were all shapes and sizes and operated in many different sectors. They employed smart people and had executive teams that were great leaders, but something seemed to be missing.

The thought that just wouldn’t escape my mind was: “Why can’t these organisations deliver what they said they would?” This set me down a path of learning and reading about strategy, and its execution. I read almost every book ever written on the topic, as well as all the academic literature. I even started a PhD in the hope of finding an answer to this seemingly simple question. The more I read the more I came to realise there was a significant gap between an organisation defining its strategy, and then implementing it. The academic literature even highlighted this gap, and offered up different theoretical and conceptual models. However, many of those models were either impractical and therefore not overly suitable in the modern organisation, or they were incomplete, and only covered a very small situation, part of the organisation, or industry.

WHY WE WROTE THIS BOOK

 

The title, The Strategy Implementation Gap, refers to this misalignment, and the gap it causes between intent and actual achievement.

There are two key areas that cause this misalignment:

1. changes in the external environment

2.the inability of the organisation’s people and other resources to deliver the objectives.

 

With an average 70% of projects failing to meet all their goals, large organisations are often behind their strategic plan at the end of the first year. This makes achieving the second year’s objectives harder, and those for years three to five almost impossible. Because the strategic plan is set in stone, objectives cannot be updated. And often the CEO falls on their sword.

We have worked in project management-related roles and both of us have made a career out of using projects and programs to turn executives’ plans and ideas into a practical reality. We wrote this book to show the implementation of strategy, using much of the learning from the art and science of delivery. This book is a culmination of more than 40 years of practical experience, combined with extensive research of the literature written on this topic.

 

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Michael Young

Michael is a leading international expert in project management, and strategy and its implementation. Michael has worked with ISO, Standards Australia, the International Project Management Association and Australian Institute of Project Management. Some of Australia’s leading organisations have engaged his services to “get clear on their strategy” and to ensure it is successfully executed. His work has been featured in BRW, the Australian Financial Review, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times. Michael is passionate about creating a sustainable future. He has spoken on this topic around the world and was recently invited to the United Nations Global Business Leader Forum.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

James Bawtree ChPP

James is passionate about contributing to the project management arena. Working with people shaping strategy and delivering meaningful results underpins his desire to foster quality excellence and world-class innovation. With 20 years’ experience, James started his career at Rolls-Royce PLC, later to qualify as a Chartered Professional Mechanical Engineer (CPEng) and recently, as a well-known project leader, as a Chartered Project Professional (ChPP). James is a globally certified transformation practitioner (AgileSHIFT®) and change manager (PROSCI) as well as a globally approved PMO (P3O®), program (MSP®) and project management (PRINCE2 Agile®) trainer, coach and mentor. He is a National Board Member of the Australian Institute of Project Management, has led multiple MBA modules in strategy implementation, and enjoys delivering programs using the latest Microsoft collaborative technology.

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