• February 1, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Required Reading: Strategic Minds Think Alike

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Many CRM problems are borne out of a lack of communication between sales and marketing. Zoom out, and you'll find that the same problem exists higher up between senior executives and project managers. Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of business strategies fail to get implemented completely or adequately, according to Raymond Levitt, William Malek, and Mark Morgan, in their book, Executing Your Strategy: How to Break It Down and Get It Done. Businesses often suffer from the classic "Throw it over the wall and hope it works out" mentality, and assume that those on the other end will know what to do and why they're doing it. Instead, the two sides need to engage in a "bilingual conversation" and execute strategies in a collaborative environment. CRM
magazine's Jessica Tsai had the opportunity to speak with Levitt. CRM magazine: What inspired you and your coauthors to write a book like this? Levitt: We helped to put together an executive education program at Stanford called the Stanford Advanced Project Management program. In the course of doing that, we were distilling the ideas. We tried to pull together ideas from the literature that addressed various pieces of this but had never been pulled together in quite the same way before. In fact, no one, single source connected modern ideas about how to run projects with ideas about coming up with good strategies. CRM magazine: Your lessons seem straightforward and yet businesses are still struggling. Where do you think the problems come in? Levitt: First of all, companies try to do too much. What people don't realize is that doing the right project means not doing the wrong projects. If you take on too many you overextend your resources and then the most important right projects don't actually get done -- or don't get done fast enough or well enough. They're not disciplined enough in their portfolio management. The second thing is, when you try to execute a new product development, or a new line of business, or enter a new market, you have to understand that along with the projects you can see are a whole bunch of hidden projects about realigning your culture and realigning your structure. CRM magazine: Who's to blame? Levitt: Typically, the senior people blame the lower people for failing to execute, and project management blames the senior executives for having an unrealistic strategy that was not informed by a real understanding of what it would take to execute. CRM magazine: So if someone reads your book over the weekend, what should he do Monday morning? Levitt: Think very hard about how you decide what project to do and if your strategy is clearly enough articulated. Then, think about if you're identifying all these hidden projects of strategic alignment. If you understand that and you tackle it from the beginning, you're likely to succeed. If you try to start doing something without systematically defining the culture and structure change, you're very unlikely to succeed. Other Page-Turners:
  • It's inevitable: People make bad decisions. But when those bad decisions result in big losses, it doesn't matter how good the idea seemed at the time. In Think Smart -- Act Smart, Jim Nightingale explains that it doesn't matter how smart you are or how well you know your business, what's important is whether you have the discipline to plan the "who" and "how" of your business strategies.
  • With the availability of solutions like software-as-a-service and the power of Web 2.0, the playing field for companies is leveling out regardless of size. Soon, the differentiator will depend on creativity. In Big Think Strategy, Bernd Schmitt dares you to get ahead and stay ahead by thinking big: exploring ideas beyond the confines of the conventional.
  • Great minds think alike, but they don't do alike, according to Roger Martin's The Opposable Mind. Every business is unique, so it's not enough just to implement the same strategies of the great business leaders. Success did, however, come to those who exemplified integrative thinking. Martin explains the power of this skill and how to incorporate it into your own strategic thinking.
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