Posted: June 19th, 2022


This is a team discussion (only one submission per team).
Read the following articles and provide a few recommendations that UIW leaders should follow so that UIW strategies can be successfully IMPLEMENTED in the current environment of health and economy challenges. This is not about what strategies they should implement but what steps are important for UIW strategies to be executed effectively by UIW employees. Do not copy and paste from the articles. Just read them to get inspired and create your list of magic ingredients to ensure strategy implementation.

Lawrence Hrebiniak: Making Strategy Work
Mar 25, 2022

Wharton emeritus management professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak, who passed away in January, was a
longtime faculty member and an expert in management strategy. He published several books on the subject
and was instrumental in developing management strategy courses for the school’s MBA and Executive
Education programs.

His most notable books were Implementing Strategy with co-author William F. Joyce, which was released in
1984, and Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, which was first released in 2005
with a second edition in 2013.

“Larry deeply believed in the importance of strategy for business success, and he wanted to make sure that his
students understood that, too. That’s why he put so much heart and soul into his work,” Wharton Dean Erika
James said.

In Making Strategy Work, Hrebiniak laid out a detailed roadmap for business leaders to follow in executing a
successful strategy. His framework included factors that he considered key: organizational structure,
information sharing, incentives, coordination, change management, controls, culture, and the role of power
and influence within the business.

“Larry is best known for his work on strategy execution,” Wharton management professor Nikolaj Sigglekow
said. “As a matter of fact, Making Strategy Work is lying on my office table right now and was a tremendous
help as I was creating a new executive education course on that topic.”

Hrebiniak held a bachelor’s degree in economics from Cornell University as well as an MBA in strategic
management and a PhD in management from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He taught at
Pennsylvania State University before joining the faculty at Wharton in 1976.

Prior to his academic career, Hrebiniak worked for several years in various positions at Ford Motor Company,
including as a district field manager. He served as a consultant throughout his career, working with companies
such as AT&T, Isuzu, DuPont, Microsoft, Bristol Meyers-Squibb, and Chase Manhattan Bank.

Got a New Strategy? Don’t Forget the Execution Part

Got a New Strategy? Don’t Forget the Execution Part
Jul 31, 2013

When it comes to executing strategy, the old saying “the devil is in the details” holds true for many
companies, according to Wharton emeritus management professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak. While executives
may readily participate in the development of new strategies, execution tends to get short shrift, because it is
often viewed as a lower-level task or concern, he notes. In the following interview, Hrebiniak — who just
published the second edition of his book, Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change —
explains why it’s critical for firms to create a “culture of execution” in order to succeed.
An edited version of the conversation appears below.
Knowledge@Wharton: Why do firms tend to focus much more energy on strategy and less on
Lawrence G. Hrebiniak: Strategy execution takes longer, involves more people, demands the consideration
and integration of many key variables or activities, and requires an effective feedback or control system to keep
a needed focus on the process of execution over time. The strategic planning stage is usually more concentrated
and of shorter duration than the execution stage. It often deals with interesting conceptual issues that appeal
to many managers. The longer execution time horizon results in developments and changes that must be
addressed over time — for example, manager turnover, competitors’ reactions to a company’s strategy,
changing economic and competitive conditions, a changing industry structure and forces, etc. — suggesting the
importance and difficulty of organizational adaptation during the execution process.
Keeping managers and functional specialists involved in and committed to the execution requirements over a
long time period can be difficult. Some managers simply give up or turn to other developing problems and
opportunities, reducing the energy expended on implementation plans and activities. To some managers,
execution-related issues aren’t as exciting or conceptual, resulting in less than enthusiastic attention or energy
being focused on these activities. These factors, among others, increase the difficulty of strategy execution and
cause managers to avoid critical implementation requirements. The key here is management support — from
the top down — to create a culture of execution and maintain a focus on execution and its benefits.
Knowledge@Wharton: What are some of the biggest mistakes that companies make when it
comes to implementing strategy? What are the common pitfalls?
Hrebiniak: There are a number of mistakes I’ve observed over the years. One is that strategy execution or
implementation is viewed as a lower-level task or concern. Top managers with this view believe that making
strategy work — the decisions and activities associated with this task — is somehow “below them,” literally and
figuratively. This often creates a “caste” or class system in which upper management feels that it’s done the
hard work — strategic planning — and that the lower-level people then can do the easier work of execution.
This is a huge mistake, one that can create cultural rifts and poor communication across organizational levels,
leading to ineffective performance and other serious problems.
Another mistake managers make is to assume that execution is a quick, one-shot decision or action, like
“Ready-Aim-Execute” — or even worse, “Ready-Execute-Aim.” Implementation or execution simply isn’t a
one-shot deal. Strategy execution is a process, with important relationships among key variables, decisions and
actions, not a quick fix marked by simple clichés, such as: “Give him the ball and let him run with it.” Failure to
see and appreciate the interdependence or interaction among key factors — strategy, structure, incentives,
controls, coordination, culture, change, etc. — is a costly mistake that detracts from strategy execution success.
The complexity of the implementation process also results in managers ignoring the execution process, an
issue I mentioned earlier.
A mistake I’ve observed occasionally is that a good strategy is seen as sufficient to motivate effective execution.
The assumption is that solid execution will come naturally, as people see the benefits and logic of the strategic
plan and act accordingly to foster execution success. This assumption rarely, if ever, is founded; execution
takes hard work, communication of actions and benefits, and effective incentives to get managers to buy into
the execution process. Managers need skin in the game and logical guidance about their roles in the execution
scheme to make even a good strategy work.
A related mistake is to assume that a really bad or unsound strategy can be made to work well if “we execute it
well.” A bad strategy cannot be saved by working hard at execution. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s
ear,” as the saying warns. Good strategy comes first and is essential to sound execution. Skimping on the
strategy formulation stage of strategic management can only lead to implementation headaches.
There are additional pitfalls that threaten the strategy execution process in addition to those suggested above.
An important one emanates from not having a solid plan of execution or implementation. Every strategic plan
requires an implementation or execution component or plan. Every corporate and business plan must be
supported by a plan of execution. The execution plan or component must lay out clearly the key decisions and
actions required for making the strategy work. The interdependence or interactions among key factors must be
spelled out, and well understood. Responsibility and accountability for decisions and actions must be clear and
agreed upon, with areas of overlapping responsibility and need for cooperation laid out and committed to by
key personnel. Failure to develop an implementation plan is a problem or pitfall that usually ends in disastrous
performance. Again, the assumption seems to be that execution simply happens or unfolds seamlessly, and this
is a mistake.
A big pitfall or mistake emanates from a poor understanding of organizational structure. Not understanding
the costs and benefits of different structures or designs can lead to severe problems. Treating structure as an
afterthought or something that changes according to managers’ whims or fancies and not as a response to the
demands of strategy represents a major problem or pitfall. Structure has a role to play. It affects many things,
including efficiency, effectiveness, getting close to markets and customers, and so on. A lack of understanding
of structure’s role in making strategy work usually leads to problems.
Also, a major pitfall with all sorts of related problems is inadequate or inappropriate attention to the
management of change. Implementation or execution plans often include the need for change, and handling it
poorly can lead to resistance to new execution efforts.
Knowledge@Wharton: What new kinds of problems have emerged since you published the first
edition of your book — that is, what kinds of new challenges are managers facing when it comes
to executing strategy in today’s business environment?
Hrebiniak: A number of new challenges emerged after publication of the first edition of Making Strategy
Work. One might think that the old or consistent, ongoing challenges I noted earlier would be sufficient to
keep managers who are interested in execution busy for a long time. Yet, new challenges and ideas were
presented to me, adding to the list of execution-related needs. One [new area of concern was] the service
sector, including not-for-profit organizations. The question simply was: Does the material in Making Strategy
Work apply equally well to service organizations? Not-for-profits? Another request was for a deeper coverage
of the execution of global strategies. The first edition of the book contained little insight here, and managers
told me that they would like to see more about implementation in the global arena.
Quite a few managers raised questions about project management. In fact, I was contacted by someone
representing the Project Management Institute who asked [several] questions about the role of project
management in the execution process. Additional questions regarding making M&A strategies work also were
raised. The new edition [has sections] dealing with service organizations, global strategies and project
management, as well as a revised chapter on making M&A strategies work.
Knowledge@Wharton: What can a company do to become more focused on executing
Hrebiniak: The basic step for a company to follow to become more focused on execution or implementation
is to create a culture of execution. How does one create such a culture? Let’s look at some basic facts. First, it’s
a fact that culture affects behavior. An organizational culture includes values, prescriptions on how to act, how
to treat others, how to react to performance shortfalls, how to compete, etc., and these have a profound impact
on behavior. A related fact, however, also must be kept in mind: Behavior, over time, affects organizational
culture. Culture, [in other words], is both an independent, causal factor, and a dependent factor, affected by
behavior. How, then, does one create a desired culture? By creating behaviors and performance programs that
become an integral part of an organization’s way of doing things. By creating and reinforcing behaviors and
performance programs that affect the very essence of how organizations act and compete, i.e. their culture.
A company, then, can [create] a culture of execution by [developing and reinforcing] behaviors that affect
culture. It can: lay out key decisions, actions, and capabilities needed for successful execution; support the
model and execution plan with effective incentives and controls; create structures and processes that support
desired strategic and operating objectives; and manage execution as a change process in which agreement and
commitment are sought and rewarded. Creating and reinforcing behaviors related to execution will impact
culture; culture will reflect the critical execution-related behaviors. It is important to design, reward and
otherwise support the right behaviors, those that are vital to making strategy work, in order to create and
nurture a culture of execution.

Lawrence Hrebiniak: Making Strategy Work
Got a New Strategy? Don’t Forget the Execution Part

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