The Psychology of Strategy Execution: Commitment, Behavior, and Momentum

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The world of strategy execution has been riddled with challenges. From ineffective communication to ineffective strategies, many barriers keep companies from reaching their goals. The crux of these problems often boils down to human behavior, engagement, and commitment. So, how do successful companies foster commitment and behavioral change across all levels? Moreover, what is the psychology behind building commitment and momentum? It’s time to break the barriers down towards successful and easier strategy execution for all.

1. The Behavior and Commitment Conundrum

Any strategy, however visionary, is rendered useless without execution. And at the heart of execution lies a series of human behaviors. This realization brings us to the core question: How can companies ensure employees are committed enough to change their behavior to align with a new strategy?

There are a few time-tested methods:

Inclusion and Participation: More often than not, top-down strategies face resistance. Employees are more likely to commit to a strategy they’ve had a hand in crafting. Actively involving employees in strategy formation fosters a sense of ownership and belonging. This way, the strategy isn’t something that’s done to them, but something they’re a part of.

Clear Communication: Vague communication leads to uncertainty and distrust. Every stakeholder, from the top management to the frontline worker, needs to understand the strategy, its importance, and its implications. Clearly define the goal, the activities that support the goal, who is responsible and the definition of done. This clarity reduces resistance and builds commitment.

Aligning Incentives: A strategy might require an employee to change their routine, take on additional work, or learn new skills. Unless there’s an incentive (monetary or non-monetary), pushing for these changes will be an uphill battle. This brings us back to the previous bullet point of clearly communicating the ‘why’ for the employees.

2. The Psychology of Commitment and Building Momentum

Humans, by nature, resist change. The familiar is comfortable. So when companies roll out a new strategy that demands change, it’s only natural for employees to resist. This is where understanding the psychology behind commitment becomes crucial.

Sense of Purpose: Humans are driven by purpose. If an individual understands the ‘why’ behind a change, they are more likely to commit to it. Leaders must ensure that the strategy’s purpose aligns with both the company’s goals and the personal aspirations of its employees.

Progressive Achievements: Celebrating small wins builds momentum. When employees see progress, even if it’s incremental, it motivates them to push forward. It creates a snowball effect where success breeds further success. This is done in the weekly Acceleration meeting where progress is brought to the spotlight and a commitment culture is fostered.

Leadership by Example: Leaders need to be the first to adopt and showcase the behaviors they expect from their team. Observing leaders act in line with the new strategy influences employees to follow suit. This trickle-down effect is a powerful tool in ensuring successful strategy execution.

3. The Overlooked Element: Sensemaking

A recent revelation in the world of strategy execution is the importance of sensemaking. It’s the process by which individuals give meaning to a strategy. For successful strategy execution, it’s not enough to just communicate a strategy. Leaders must ensure that employees can relate the strategy to their individual roles and daily tasks. According to the Howwe Way of Working, the overarching goals are broken down to each and every function, which fosters involvement and motivation.

Contextualizing Strategy: Each individual should understand how the strategy affects their role. Leaders should offer examples, scenarios, or case studies to help employees contextualize the strategy.

Empathy and Understanding: Leaders should actively seek to understand the concerns and reservations of their team. Addressing these concerns helps in refining the strategy and ensuring smoother execution.

In Conclusion

Strategy execution isn’t just about defining clear goals. At its core, it’s about understanding human psychology, fostering commitment, and facilitating behavior change. By focusing on these elements, companies can bridge the chasm between strategy formulation and execution, ensuring they don’t become another statistic in the long list of strategy execution failures. Using a digital strategy acceleration software such as Howwe will secure a positive behavior change and shortened calendar time from strategy to results.

Katarina Bennich
Katarina Bennich is an experienced communication manager skilled in content production, brand building, corporate communications, and marketing strategy. Currently VP & CMO at Howwe Technologies, she excels in B2B marketing, branding, and campaigns. With a background in investment advising and trade promotion, Katarina brings a unique perspective. She holds a bachelor's degree in Media, Communication, and Journalism and possesses expertise in SaaS, internal communications, crisis communications, and strategic planning.

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