Top Articles on Strategy Execution – May 2021

Below is a curated list of our Monthly Top 10 articles in Strategy Execution for the month of May – as well as our quick comments on why we found them interesting!

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

FYI – We just started to share our Weekly Top Picks. If you would like to receive these picks every Friday in your inbox, you can register here.

Top Ten List

1It’s Time to Free the Middle ManagerHBR.orgCultural Cohesion
2Benchmarking in the dairy industry: Strengthening performance amid double volatilityMcKinsey & CompanyPrepared Minds
3A New Model to Spark Innovation Inside Big CompaniesHBR.orgResource Fluidity
4The Elusive Formula For Great HiringMasters of ScaleCultural Cohesion
5Why process is key for financial institutions’ operational excellenceE&YPrepared Minds
6Getting AI to ScaleHarvard Business ReviewPrepared Minds
7Eliminate Strategic OverloadHarvard Business ReviewStrategic Clarity
8Build Data Liquidity to Accelerate Data MonetizationMIT CISRPrepared Minds
9The Impact of MuZero and How AI Could Change Strategy MakingDr Mark van RijmenamEnabling Technology
10Turbulent Times Demand Dynamic RulesMITSloan Management ReviewManagement Innovation

Editor’s Top Ten


It’s Time to Free the Middle Manager
by Brian Elliott

adaptable comment: In anticipation of a continued shift in the role of middle managers, this article suggests that managers leverage new digital tools to cut out the time sink of filtering and routing information between top executives and line workers. With the savings of time, the article goes on to suggest that these same managers allocate their time to the higher value activities of people development and team construction.


Benchmarking in the dairy industry: Strengthening performance amid double volatility
by Dayan Jayasuriya, Alina Kasumova, Shruti Lal, Ludovic Meilhac, and Andreas Seyfert

adaptable comment: Solid article touting the benefits of benchmarking (across internal operations as well as against the industry). To arrive at a set of gaps & opportunities for continuous improvement, the authors lay out a 5-step process that includes… an analysis to account for any differences in what is being compared as well as a normalization of the KPIs being analyzed. Benchmarking seems like it should be table stakes and it surely must become commonplace for those that want to compete in an age of ubiquitous data and unlimited processing power.


A New Model to Spark Innovation Inside Big Companies
by Nitin Nohria and Hemant Taneja

adaptable comment: Though this article is more of an article on management innovation, I filed it under resource fluidity because it talks about how to get resources behind new ideas by using a “Venture Buyout”. This VBO structure happens when intrapreneurs are encouraged to seek external venture capital for their new business ideas. I need to look further into how this idea benefits the companies themselves. More to come.


The Elusive Formula For Great Hiring
by Reid Hoffman and Aneel Bhusri

adaptable comment: Enjoyed listening to Workday’s CEO as he talked about the value of “culture fit” – and his primary commitment to Workday’s people and the company’s hiring process. In reference to fit, the best line was “one company’s “Perfect 10” will be another’s “Zero”. I also appreciated his celebration of diversity within the frame of culture. An engaging podcast; as you also get Reid Hoffman’s perspective and some cameos from other prominent CEOs.


Why process is key for financial institutions’ operational excellence
by Mike Schank

adaptable comment: Love this sketch of operational excellence in financial institutions (not sure it doesn’t apply to all industries). I look forward to the day when we have integrated process maps for an entire company, so “operations [are] traceable and transparent”. The idea of having a business model fully mapped out and up on the wall, with digital alerts and areas of focus, is my dream. We are almost there – especially if we combine the deep analysis work of this post with the technology of digital twins that we discussed a couple months back!


Getting AI to Scale
by Tim Fountaine, Brian McCarthy, and Tamim Saleh

adaptable comment: This is another article focused on the merits and challenges of AI. This one suggests that to reap a win that will propel you forward in your data science journey, you need to focus on what they call a “critical slice of the business” or a “domain”. A domain is an area large enough to make a dent in the business. They suggest that you invest heavily in a domain to get the type of results that turns heads. I like this focused approach – as I believe in the merits of AI if the opportunity, data, and focus are present!


Eliminate Strategic Overload
by Felix Oberholzer-Gee

adaptable comment: A few week’s back, I added a podcast on this book to our weekly favorites list, and I mused that it was an idea to watch – but I wasn’t convinced. This week, the book was given to me by a client CEO who applauded the simple focus on value in the framework! Well, I’m dutifully turning the pages. A follow on article this week goes beyond the “value stick” and explores the “value map” (which seems to evolve Blue Ocean’s strategy canvas). I like this push to consider the competitive positioning of the attributes of a business’s customer value proposition when considering how to create more value at the Willingness-to-Pay end of the value stick. I recommend the article. Please share your thoughts if you do read it!


Build Data Liquidity to Accelerate Data Monetization
by Barbara H. Wixom and Gabriele Piccoli

adaptable comment: This article explores how data becomes more valuable as it becomes more liquid – meaning that it is available to be used many times over in varied applications and for varied purposes. In this way, the value of a corporate data “asset’ increases exponentially.


The Impact of MuZero and How AI Could Change Strategy Making
by Dr Mark van Rijmenam

adaptable comment: Last month, I highlighted articles both on reinforcement learning and on how technology is being used to strengthen strategy. In this post, we see a full integration of the two ideas. I first witnessed a nascent version of this in Erik Beinhocker’s book, The Origin of Wealth. Now, we are seeing it in reality – emergent strategy being modeled by computers!


Turbulent Times Demand Dynamic Rules
by David R. Hannah, Christopher D. Zatzick, and Jan Kietzmann

adaptable comment: This is a unique take on the mindsets and behaviors that prepare organizations to respond to change as it happens around them. The authors suggest that corporate “rules” be dynamic and evolve with the environment. They then outline how the healthy interplay between management and employees allows for this success.

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.