In the business world, a strategy is only as good as the team responsible for implementing it. All too often a strategy is presented with great fanfare; yet a few months down the line it will not have been activated as set out in the original plan. The first step in finding out what went wrong is to look at the variables at play before the strategy was revealed.

The focus should be on the team who will be responsible for executing the strategy. A change in strategic direction often requires a change in behaviour and a deviation from the way in which things have always been done. Is the team ready for this?

Understanding the market in which a company operates is vital – but equally important is to emphasise an understanding of team dynamics. Most modern businesses are caught in a vicious cycle of strategic change as the common belief is that a new strategy will bring new results. When a strategy doesn’t work, the most obvious reaction is to tweak or overhaul the strategy – but not the team responsible for executing it.

Eventually, the rate of strategic change becomes faster than the rate of skills development. To break this cycle, it is essential to work with teams to quantify the skills that are required to execute a strategy in a modern, digitally driven business world. Once one understands the collective skillset of a team it becomes possible to develop a strategy that plays to their strengths and to develop strategies that are in the best interests of the business. At the same time the team executing the strategy will come to understand their own weaknesses and can gain important new skills along the way.

Ultimately, the complexity of the strategy evolves as the team’s skill level increases. As weaknesses in the team become strengths, the strategy will evolve to cater for these new strengths and skills. Within a three-year window (and with a consistent team) the business can dramatically upskill a team so they will be capable of dealing with advanced strategy, incorporating disciplines such as data analytics and agile project management. This is the dawn of post-modern talent – people who are able to execute strategy based on a hybrid combination of hard skills, soft skills and an understanding of their social roles within a business.

The big take-out

In a post-modern marketing world, agility, flexibility and the capacity for upskilling are as vital as the plan the business is looking to implement.

While it is challenging to address hard skills through upskilling (as they pertain to an individual’s credentials); soft skills are a vital component of post-modern marketing talent – the mindset and attitude of an individual in the context of a team rather than their academic or professional qualifications. Their ability to collaborate, their comfort in dealing with change, their appetite for uncertainty and risk, and an entrepreneurial mindset are some of the factors that can be harnessed to build a team capable of executing an evolving strategy.

Social roles look at the composition of the team. Who are the initiators and the gatekeepers?  Who will champion the cause and who will be most influential in driving the process? The mix is as important as the skills – but again, those elements aren’t things that can be acquired through formal education or training.

In a post-modern marketing world, agility, flexibility and the capacity for upskilling are as vital as the plan the business is looking to implement – otherwise, that endeavour is doomed to fail and the process will start all over again, without ever achieving the desired result. Can your business afford to risk the time and money involved in repeating that same mistake again and again?

  • Wynand Coetzer is co-founder of CSO + Partners, and a proud member of the Demographica family assisting clients in creating business-led customer experience strategies