Nice vision, shame the execution sucks

Guest blog by Prasad Narasimhan, brandgym Managing Partner for Asia, based in Bangalore.

The belief that strategy is distinct from execution has become increasingly endemic in business today. It can be convenient and even smug to say, “The strategy was great. It's the execution that sucked.” But what use is a brand strategy if it is not executed? After all, the only brand vision the consumer ever sees is the one the brands actually executes.  

Moving from brand vision to action does pose real challenges. As Steve Jobs said, “there’s a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between a great idea and a great product.” Drawing on our 20 years of experience on brand vision to action from 200+ projects, we've identified six key factors that can de-rail the execution of your great vision. This is the first of two posts looking at the problems and how to overcome them, to help increase your chances of success. The posts are illustrated with cartoon genius from Tom Fishburne.

Problem 1: The new broom

The team "journey" is a key part of the brand vision to action projects we do. The team who have created the vision and action plan are highly engaged with the project output, and feel a real sense of ownership. However, teams can change early into the execution process. The most difficult challenge is when the brand leader moves on, as they have to really live and breathe the new vision. Inevitably, the new leader has his or her own ideas on what needs to be done on the brand, and so this can de-rail the implementation process.

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Solution: we have found that proactively planning in an immersion and detailed handover session for new team members can help re-build engagement, enthusiasm and urgency to move forward. Telling the project story, not just the brand story, is important to help new members understand where the vision came from, and how it was developed.

Problem 2: Getting bossed about

A sure-fire way to kill the chances of successful implementation is to not get senior stakeholder alignment early on. Doubters weigh in. Ideas are nixed. This leaves the brand leader out-numbered & alone, with the uphill task of resuscitating the action plan. 

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Solution: stakeholder interviews upfront ensure that brand teams are alive to their priorities as they create the vision. We also insist on pre-booking CEO alignment sessions or stakeholder walk-throughs immediately on vision finalization. Creating a compelling ‘project story’ that addresses the brand & business opportunity and enthusiastic presentations from the project team can help secure senior buy-in.

Problem 3: Fire fighting 

New short-term priorities often emerge as teams start implementing the brand vision. A competitive launch, threat of delisting by a channel, a supply chain disruption – any urgent new business contingency can de-rail the brand action process, diverting time and budget away from the key action plans agreed during the brand vision process.

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Solution: post-project action reviews (90 day, 180 day, 1 year) can help the team stay as true as possible to the brand vision. We find companies often value having an external coach to remind them, sometimes forcefully, of the vision and action plan they signed up for. Sometimes this forces to team to push back against short term fire-fighting, or to at least try and ensure a short term action is done in line with the brand vision.

Check back next week for the second installment on how to get from vision to action.