The strategy-to-execution continuum

To close the often-cited gap between strategy and execution, there are three areas that you need to get right according to Paul Leinwand and Joachim Rotering in their article “How to Excel at Both Strategy and Execution” (Harvard Business Review, November 2017):

  • Build the strategy
  • Translate the strategy into the everyday
  • Execute the strategy

There are several questions that Leinwand and Rotering suggest to think through in this context, including:

  • Are you very clear about how you add value to customers in a way that others don’t, and about the specific capabilities that enable you to excel at that value proposition?
  • As strategies are being developed, […] are you asking yourself the question, “Do you have the capabilities needed—or can you build the capabilities needed—to execute the strategy?”
  • Are there visible programs (e.g., specific new technologies, new processes, or training programs) to build the key capabilities your organization needs to win with its strategy?
  • Are you enabling employees to work together across organizational silos to tackle the cross-functional challenges that allow the company to win?
  • Are you keeping track […] of how you’re building and scaling up those few key capabilities that enable you to create value for customers in ways that others cannot?

Isn’t this nothing else than a call for a business architecture type of approach to strategy building, implementation, and execution? According to the BIZBOK® Guide (A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge®), “business architecture represents holistic, multidimensional business views of: capabilities, end-to-end value delivery, information, and organizational structure; and the relationships among these business views and strategies, products, policies, initiatives, and stakeholders.” In other words, business architecture is much about how things are interrelated in the strategy-to-execution continuum, which makes it perfectly suited to serve as a foundation for dealing with the above questions.

A look at our fundamental business architecture framework (originally published in “Enterprise Architecture Management and its Role in Corporate Strategic Management”) underpins this conclusion. It comes with a basic structure that distinguishes between three interrelated chunks of business architecture content:

  • Business motivation (incl., e.g., vision, strategy)
  • Business model (incl., e.g., value proposition, customer segments)
  • Business execution (incl., e.g., capabilities, processes, people)

We therefore call it the “Business Architecture Triangle.” It allows you to navigate through the business architecture in a structured way (and, e.g., move between motivation and execution) and assess how conditions or changes in one part may affect (or require changes in) other parts.

This may, for example, involve analyzing capabilities for strengths and weaknesses to inform strategy building. Conversely, you may also assess potential strategies in terms of their impacts on business model (e.g., whether it will need new or modified value streams) and/or business execution (e.g., whether new capabilities are required) to help make adequate strategic choices. Furthermore, you may want to analyze capabilities for alignment with the business model – especially in terms of the defined value proposition(s) – to determine whether the organization actually lives up to its business model.

In future blog posts, we’ll return to the Business Architecture Triangle and shed some more light on it. Please get in touch if you want to learn more about our approach to business architecture, which essentially combines the Business Architecture Triangle with the principles and guidelines given in the BIZBOK® Guide.

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