Where a growing circle of business leaders comes to share, learn, and inspire organizations to put people first

Whirling Chief
Nº 53

Introduction to HR Strategy Building

Everyone wants HR to be more ‘strategic’. Everyone thinks HR needs to think outside the box. Everyone calls for HR innovation and data-focus. Are we ready to agree the future of Human Resources is the topic of our focus? ☺

We have already published several posts on HR Strategy:

We continue to get questions from HR colleagues regarding strategy and steps to take to develop a HR strategy for their team, business unit, or function.

First of all, it is important to realize many companies and business leaders, too, struggle with strategic thinking and strategy execution.

In 2011, Forbes published an article on 10 Reasons Why Strategic Plans Fail. Ever since, the conversation has yet to find a resolution. More recently, I read another great article on why companies fail at strategic execution at INSEAD blog.

Harvard published in 2010 that only ~38% of organizations consider themselves successful at defining their company strategy (from a planning perspective). What’s more curious is that out of that percentage, only ~48% report being good at strategy execution.1

In one Fortune 100 technology firm, years back, we designed and introduced a business planning process that allows for the key stakeholder groups – whether it’s the business leadership teams or employees or customers – to declare their needs, wants, and wishes. These then funnel up to a set of large, medium, and small size initiatives to be supported by the HR department appropriately. Would it surprise you to hear the process is still intact with the company 10 years later? It should not be – good strategy sticks! BUT… it is important to recognize the importance of execution and sustainability.

See? Strategy is different than strategy execution! Strategy is about defining where you’d like to go – it is the ‘what’ of the achievement or outcomes we wish to have. Strategy execution, however, is about the process of reaching your end goal – it is the ‘how’ of the achievement or outcome we look to have. Yet, in another wonderful research summary this year, Why Strategy Execution Unravels and What To Do About It, Donald Sull of MIT Sloan School of Management discussed four reasons leading to failure in strategy execution.

We share these data points to demonstrate thinking strategically and acting on strategy is a struggle for all business functions – not just HR. Having said that, with the evolution of our functional role, there is a hunger, a desire to do more in the strategy arena and to refocus people activities to support the business agenda.

For this, we created a Building a HR Strategy Toolkit for our colleagues. Please feel free to download, use, and share it with others as you see fit.


  • 10 October 2016

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