Top Articles on Strategy Execution – March 2021

We’ve been reading again! In March, we read over 500 articles on Strategy Execution. Below is a curated list of our Top 10!

As a quick reminder, below is a picture of the categories of organizational capabilities for which adaptable is collecting and curating content.

Top Ten List

1If Consultation And Worker Involvement Is So Important, Why Don’t We Do It?Daud’ O. ShittuCultural Cohesion
2A Left-Brained Approach to Portfolio Company Talent DecisionsBain & CompanyStrategic Clarity
3AI, Digital Twins, and the Future of Product Design ProcessesAutodesk UniversityEnabling Technology
4How capability building can power transformationMcKinsey & CompanyManagement Innovation
5The CEO Imperative: How can today’s leaders realize tomorrow’s opportunities?EYQManagement Innovation
6Are You Really Listening?Harvard Business ReviewCultural Cohesion
7AI Should Augment Human Intelligence, Not Replace ItHBR.orgPrepared Minds
8To Make Zero-Based Budgeting Work, Change BehaviorBoston Consulting GroupResource Fluidity
9How a steel plant in India tapped the value of data—and won global acclaimMcKinsey & CompanyPrepared Minds
10Persuading the UnpersuadableHarvard Business ReviewCultural Cohesion

Editor’s Top Ten


If Consultation And Worker Involvement Is So Important, Why Don’t We Do It? by Daud’ O. Shittu.

This is a simple but prophetic commentary to all leaders. Why aren’t we engaging, or at least consulting our teams in the process improvement and innovation work that our companies are undertaking? Who’s better situated to understand and represent the value-creating processes and needed organizational capabilities than those that are doing the work! Thanks to Daud’ O. Shittu for the post. Sometimes it takes a nudge to bring clarity to the obvious.


A Left-Brained Approach to Portfolio Company Talent Decisions by David Waller, Courtney della Cava, Kristin Schroeder, and Rolf-Magnus Weddigen of Bain & Company.

I just loved this article. I went back-and-forth on where to include it (an article targeting Private Equity firms!) on this list, but, ultimately, I had to go with my gut. This article lays out a process for considering leadership talent when looking to achieve strategic plans. It pushes decision makers to consider the capabilities and motivations needed to execute the strategies that are being considered. Only once these capabilities are defined can the right candidate be vetted to complement the existing board and affiliated advisors to drive after the value-creating plan (VCP). I think this idea is transferable to most all strategic initiatives – well beyond just the selection of a CxO. I also appreciated the fact that the authors imply (or maybe I inferred) that past ivy league educations and blue chip corporate experiences are not a blanket solve for what’s needed.


AI, Digital Twins, and the Future of Product Design Processes by Nikolas Martelaro, Mike Kuniavsky, and Nick Akiona for Autodesk University.

Here is an article that harkens to the extraordinary potential of data and AI within the design process. The authors give us a glimpse into how product teams can leverage “AI assistants” to quickly develop a range of possible solutions that meet the complex array of customer needs and engineering constraints. It is fascinating to sit still and consider how these “assistants” might digitally walk through a huge number of adjacent or overlapping design spaces (if I am using the terms correctly) to derive product ideas that maximize function and design. I wish that I knew how to leverage this capability in the services space!


How capability building can power transformation by Hugh Bachmann, Dominic Skerritt, and Elizabeth Young McNally (alumna) of McKinsey & Company.

I am a firm believer in the need to articulate strategy and the need to identify the capabilities to deliver on that strategy. In addition, I believe that the speed with which we need to enact these changes is increasing in many industries, and I have posted about how “dynamic capabilities” – the meta capabilities to quickly spin up and assemble other value-creating capabilities – may in fact be the new sign of competitive advantage.

In this article, the authors lay out what it takes to build a new set of capabilities in an organization. They discuss the need to make sure that the capabilities fully penetrate and become sustainable within the organization, as well as the proven performance benefits of having an established capability-building program.


The CEO Imperative: How can today’s leaders realize tomorrow’s opportunities? by John de Yonge and Prianka Srinivasan of EYQ.

This is another article on building capabilities, and the need for companies to embrace a “continuous transformation mindset” in order to prepare for the future. They name three “core interconnected value drivers” that underpin this evolutionary change: “humans at the center, leveraging technology at speed, and driving innovation at scale.” I appreciate this framing but need to further reckon with how to juxtapose it with what we share at the top of this post!


Are You Really Listening? by Adam Bryant and Kevin Sharer.

As leaders, we can all work on the art of listening. I’ve been working on it for the past two decades – and I know that I still have plenty of headroom for growth. The authors of this article suggest that most leaders live in a “bubble” with the faulty assumption that they know what’s going on. To counter this misperception, the authors provide a number of practical steps to improve our listening and to build a “listening ecosystem” within our organizations.


AI Should Augment Human Intelligence, Not Replace It by David De Cremer and Garry Kasparov.

Is the introduction of AI (artificial intelligence) really a zero sum game as it relates to humans and the workplace? This question is the conceptual focus of the article. The retort claims that AI and humans have different qualities and abilities. They should be viewed as complementary, not as substitutes. The authors describe three types of AI and how machines and humans co-exist to create added value in the latter two – authentic intelligence and augmented intelligence.


To Make Zero-Based Budgeting Work, Change Behavior by Karin von Funck, Mark Austin, Donat Wunderlich, and Christina Schenk of BCG.

In our sole selection from the category of resource fluidity, the authors explore ZBB (zero-based budgeting). Using this approach, companies clear the slate and take a bottoms-up look at the activities of the organization and their related spend. ZBB at its best is an opportunity to empower managers to be owner-operators. It is also an opportunity to re-allocate funds from lower value to higher value activities and operations. The article ends with a series of considerations to effectively pull off a zero-based budget.


How a steel plant in India tapped the value of data—and won global acclaim by Rajiv Kumar, Namrata Dubashi, Rajat Gupta, and Kunwar Sing of McKinsey & Company.

A fun case study of Tata Steel and their evolving commitment to advanced analytics. The article begins with the company’s early entry into data science – how they equipped their new plant with sensors to capture data and how they deployed data scientists to build an initial model. Subsequently, they identified additional operational areas and trained their staff in five key data science roles: digital champion, project owner, business translator, data scientist, and data engineer. These efforts began to yield cost savings and, according to the article, they haven’t turned back. They continue to build the capabilities and yield the benefits.


Persuading the Unpersuadable by Adam Grant

Interesting article on the way that followers need to check leaders when the leader’s personalities may be leading them to bad behaviors. However, the article suggests that a keen sense for a leader’s personality type will be needed to determine the approach to counteract and persuade the leader to change their behavior. Four personality types of leaders are discussed in detail, including that of legendary Steve Jobs.

About George Veth

George Veth is a consultant in the areas of strategy execution and initiative management. Most recently, he has been leading a cross-boundary collaboration program with teams from cities across North America and Europe. He lives in Cambridge, MA, and runs a nonprofit SME Impact Fund in East Africa. His subject matter interests are organizational culture, management [system] innovation, and public value management.