If you ask today's business leaders, you will see that many would have a perfect answer on what to do strategically and how they organize execution. However, beyond the approaches and frameworks, there are many digital platforms to support the execution of strategies, tactical decision-making, and operational excellence. This article will shed some light on the differences and application areas of some of the tools. And, we'll give a definite answer on how to pursue and track improvements on the tactical level.
We focus on OKR systems, SEM (Strategic Execution Management), project and task management, and service management. In addition, we would like to focus with laser precision on the aptitude for tactical decision management. Here, "tactical" is a term used to describe the initiatives, measures, and actions that improve day-to-day operations. Typically tactical improvements are only started when something goes wrong, or someone wants or needs to start a performance improvement initiative to present results quickly – often with no sustainability.
But, this directly leads to a fire-fighting mentality and not to a systematic performance improvement cycle. Hence, seizing the "tactical" opportunity is what makes or breaks a company's future performance in a given strategic environment. The need for a new generation of execution management systems is evident. The following section will discuss how they differ from other similar-sounding technologies and approaches. What is tactical execution management, and what is tactical execution management not.
So, let's find out.
It is not OKR
OKR or Objectives and Key Results refer to an executive framework for operations in business, originally based on the ideas of "Management by objectives" by Peter Drucker and introduced to Intel by Andrew Grove. The OKR framework requires decision-makers to formulate strategies for achieving certain outcomes and then, breaking them down into action-based objectives for each level or department of employees whose participation would be necessary to accomplish the set goals. These objectives need to be time-bound to be effective. After the OKR system was successfully introduced to google in a famous pitch by John Doerr (who learned about it at Intel) from Kleiner Perkins, it became very popular amongst large companies and startups.
The effectiveness of the operations meant to achieve these goals is measured using metrics that translate into key results. The key results help visualize the success of the strategies formed by the organization's leaders.
However, the power of OKRs lies in the management sphere and not in the execution part. For execution management, you would need to get much closer to the nitty-gritty details of what needs to be changed in the operations to shift an individual KPI and observe its development over time.
Not exactly an SEM either
Strategic Execution Management involves the elaborate process of planning and designing schemes that will help turn the strategy of a company or organization into a new business reality. It can be considered a proactive approach to accomplishing the business's goals. But compared to OKR's, this is more of a top-down approach and far less human-centric than OKR's.
Strategic execution management tools are the gold standard for formalizing strategy implementation. They typically focus on financial KPIs in P&L and financial statements. This involves visualizing strategic goals and objectives, the expected outcome using financial metrics, and a continuous planning process. The planning process for each initiative and measure is based on prioritizing resources to maximize the output against planned strategic goals and objectives using the financial metrics. Hence, you can more easily understand how to lead the whole strategic transformation process to a successful new business reality.
However, one thing is typically not easy to create: The relation between the initiatives and measures to the individual business object, e.g., a product. With this respect, the SEM tools remain as OKRs not digitally connected to the business objects that may or may not impact desired outcomes in the form of KPIs or business objectives.
Some SEM tools align strategy execution with project execution to ensure better integration across multiple programs and portfolios.
It's not a program or project management tool either…
Project management is all about time management and deliverables, whereas program management tools orchestrate a whole portfolio of projects. The success and steering capabilities are focused on implementing a specific new process or IT software. The main goal here is to complete complex tasks that usually require multiple resources across the company. However, it's not about steering and reaching KPIs systematically. Success using these tools is often measured only by completing the project.
Some companies also use service management platforms to run their tactical improvement measures (even beyond IT) in their operations and keep up with a continuous improvement cycle.
There are multiple ways businesses address their tactical improvements for their daily operations and set up continuous improvement processes. Execution management systems differentiate from existing approaches and platforms, e.g., OKRs, SEMs, PPMs, and others, by connecting the individual business object and the whole KPI or objective within a platform. This allows for much better alignment, steering, and targeted execution management. Knowing the right way to perform continuous tactical decision-making and execution management helps a business stay relevant and active in every scenario.