Three ways to turn your strategy into success

Over the last 10 years strategy implementation has become accepted as its own field by leaders in Singapore. They now recognize that designing a good strategy is not enough, it must also be executed.

They have been spurred on by the fact that nine out of 10 implementations fail to be executed successfully and when they succeed, the payoff is tremendous. With most organizations failing to implement their strategy this means that companies like Singapore Airlines and DBS who are excellent in execution, benefit not only from their own successes but also their competitions’ incompetence.

Over the last 12 years we have interviewed thousands of leaders to understand the secrets of execution.

Three essentials have emerged consistently from the one out of 10 successes. The first is that the leaders translate the intangible strategy into actions (the tangible). The second is they make it everyone’s responsibility and thirdly they constantly review their performance.


1. Leaders translate the intangible strategy into actions (the tangible)

Staff members attend the launch of the new strategy at the town hall meeting and then return to their desk thinking, “that was exciting, now back to work.”

Most strategy launches are exciting but fail to explain to the individuals what they need to do differently. When people do not know why or how to implement the strategy they default back to what they do best – running the business.

Leaders during their strategic planning must clearly explain not only what the new strategy is and why the organization needs to change but also what they expect everyone to do different.

In 1999 Singapore Airlines launched Transforming Customer Service (TCS) to change staff member’s mindset towards customer service.

Staff members were inspired to feel that they “can and will” go the extra mile for their customers, to see each customer as an individual and to anticipate and exceed their expectations in every counter.


The result grew loyal and valued customers (SQ Ambassadors) and they urged their friends to fly SIA. The strategy was translated into actions through 30/30/40:

  • 30% of time was spent introducing new products and services.
  • 30% of time was spent on reviewing procedures and systems.
  • 40% of time was dedicated to people.

Each of the three initiatives clearly explained to individuals where and how they should spend their time to engage in the strategy. Individuals were also given training, coaching and support to ensure they succeeded.

“We want to be able to say to our customers – if we can’t do it for you, then no other airline can.”

Dr Cheong Choong Kong, former DC of SIA


2. Make strategy implementation everyone’s responsibility

In the past we have realized that strategy is not the responsibility of one department, neither is quality, customer service nor the implementation of the strategy. Everyone is responsible for the future of the organization. Leaders are responsible for designing the strategy and overseeing its implementation. Staff members are responsible for taking the actions every day to make the strategy come alive.

DBS is currently rolling out its new strategy, to be “The Asian Bank of Choice in the New Asia” under the stewardship of Piyush Gupta, its CEO.

To ensure that everyone is engaged in the new strategy, the bank has made a concerted, structured effort to ensure that the entire organisation has strategic clarity and pulls together behind common goals. This includes sharing the bank’s vision and priorities at staff townhalls, leadership sessions and management offsites.

In conjunction it has also launched hundreds of process redesign sessions that create the platform and methodology for staff members to eliminate wasted customer hours.


3. Constantly review performance

If it is important you have to track it and strategy is not just important but your future. Most implementations are reviewed once or twice a year. This is not frequent enough to manage the implementation and also sends the wrong message on the importance of the implementation.

Implementation actions need to be reviewed weekly and once a quarter the overall implementation must be reviewed.

In Singapore and around the regions, leaders are abysmal at reviewing implementation. It is paradoxical that they spend so much time crafting a new strategy and so little making sure it is implemented. Rather than an example I would like to end this article with:


Implementation Rule:

To take the strategy from the crafting into the business you must double your effort, time and commitment.

To ensure you deliver on your strategy goals you must double again your effort, time and commitment
making sure the right actions are being every day that deliver the right results.

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