Strategy execution and Corona virus crisis

Timo Nieminen
Timo Nieminen
Chief Commercial Officer
Strategy execution and Corona virus crisis

Corona virus has messed-up the world economy when I’m writing this article in April 2020. Companies are struggling and trying to find ways to survive. Governments around the world are granting loans and support packages to the corporate sector.

Country after country has announced bigger and bigger support packages to the corporate sector. Many of the supported industries e.g. travel, air flight, restaurants, hotels, etc. are in dire need of this kind of governmental support. Small and medium size companies with fixed costs are in the most vulnerable situation. The bigger companies typically postpone their projects and payments in the middle of a crisis, and so do the consumers.

Strategy execution, corona and beyond

It might be fair to say that ”lack of financing eats strategy for breakfast” in this situation. What I’m thinking in this situation is this:

The company has already secured a reasonable “corona financing” and the company strategy is still valid - What should, and could, the company do right now, from the strategy execution point of view?

Strategy execution is always a BIG question unavoidable by company management, even in course of crisis like the Corona pandemic. Many research studies on strategy execution indicate that a significant part, even -40% of the strategy potential is lost in the course of strategy execution phase (e.g. Harvard Business Review, 5 Ways the Best Companies Close the Strategy-Execution Gap, Michael Mankins November 20, 2017).

There are also many “high caliber” books about the subject (e.g. Execution – The discipline of getting things done, Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan, 2002). Joint views on strategy execution best practices seem to be along these lines.:

  • clarify the strategy,
  • communicate to, and empower, the people in different levels of the organization,
  • pick the right persons to the right roles,
  • prioritize,
  • follow-up the execution progress and coach the people,
  • reward the doers,
  • learn from successes (and failures) and
  • develop execution culture to the company.

The strategy execution best practices may be tested in course of the Corona crisis.

It seems obvious that now is the time for clarity. Unclear extra-ordinary situation creates inefficiency by nature to the organizations. People do not necessarily do anything when the daily routines have significantly changed.

The situation at hand requires communication and empowering people to think and act. However, this could also be the moment, which creates innovations to develop company strategy further.

Right now, many of us are following the news about our own national hospital systems e.g. how many have caught the disease, are on intensive care and whether there is enough intensive care capacity or not. This is exactly a situation where one should make sure that the right people are in the right places! There cannot be too many wrong decisions on roles & responsibilities here.

My ex-superior used to repeat a slogan ”start less, finish more”  when we were executing our company’s new strategy. Oh boy, was he right there…! This is the right, and last (?), moment for us to prioritize and leave not so important tasks for later phase. Naturally, this requires self-discipline from all of us i.e. how do I prioritize my own tasks AND my team’s tasks. Note that you may fail in either of them. I believe that team coaching is a relevant tool to be used here.

Right now, many of the people working in marketing and sales think hard on ways to go forward. Many practical tests are being done, e.g. which digital marketing channel or campaign genuinely brings new paying customers or how do I sell effectively “online”? One learns when one has to, and crisis makes us innovate quickly.

Using the best practices described earlier, create piece by piece strategy execution culture to the company. Furthermore, we in have worked with strategy execution and especially implemented  gamification into the strategy execution.

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