Multidisciplinary Bauer Research Helps Managers Transition to Strategic Implementation

Published on February 11, 2019
Managers who are torn between wanting to continue to plan and actually having to implement might be similar to the dilemma of having to choose between chocolate cake and fruit salad for dessert.

When people and organizations make plans, it can be an energizing and exciting process.

But actual implementation of those plans, can often feel tedious and overwhelming. This results in a commonplace, yet frustrating, feeling of knowing where one wants to go, but not being able to get there.

“Managers are saying, we have fantastic plans,” says Professor Dusya Vera of the Bauer College Department of Management & Leadership. “The problem is we are not so good at executing.”  

Alex Tawse, a former doctoral student at Bauer who is now Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at Georgia State University, began to think about a multidisciplinary approach to the problem after attending a graduate seminar on consumer behavior led by Professor Vanessa Patrick of the Department of Marketing & Entrepreneurship.

 “Alex, a former management consultant, began conceptualizing the gap between strategic planning and implementation as a self-control dilemma. He argued that being torn between wanting to continue to plan and actually having to implement might be similar to the dilemma of having to choose between chocolate cake and fruit salad for dessert. We realized that managers could effectively use, what we later termed ‘leadership nudges’ to enable individuals to ‘cross the chasm’ from strategic planning to implementation and encourage quicker, more successful implementation of strategic plans,” Patrick says.

Tawse, Patrick and Vera collaborated on “Crossing the Chasm: Leadership Nudges to Help Transition from Strategy Formulation to Strategy Implementation,” published in Business Horizons.

“We propose a framework for managers to be more successful in implementing strategy, that involves subtly setting up an environment that encourages individuals to make choices that will get them to the finish line sooner,” says Patrick.

Among the “leadership nudges” offered in the paper are those that are designed to either boost willpower to transition from planning to implementation or those that decrease the desirability of planning:

  • Schedule planning and implementation meetings in separate places. When it’s time to execute, get as close to the place where things will be implemented (plant floor, sales office, etc.) as possible.
  • Work through if/then scenarios to keep implementation from being waylaid by the unexpected.
  • Set and celebrate small goals along the way to emphasize the progress being made.
  • Communicate a sense of urgency (by pointing out that sales are down; or a competitor is gaining ground) and by using language or mantras that convey a sense of purpose and shared value.

By Julie Bonnin