New Book by UVA Darden Professor Offers Keys to Strategic Execution

05 September 2019

By Dave Hendrick

Corporate leaders routinely cite strategic execution as both a top priority and significant challenge.

A new book by University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Scott Snell demystifies the execution process and offers a clear framework for putting ideas into practice.

In Strategic Execution: Driving Breakthrough Performance in Business (Stanford University Press, 2019), Snell and his co-author, former SunTrust Chief Human Resources Officer Kenneth Carrig, address why execution matters, the challenges of execution and why an effective, widespread approach remains elusive.

“The problem isn’t that executives fail to recognize the importance of execution; it’s that they don’t have a clear approach for addressing the challenge,” said Snell. “This book puts forth a framework for an enduring process that stems from a series of integrated investments over time.”

Based on extensive research involving C-suite executives from 50 companies, Snell and Carrig introduce an integrated framework for understanding and developing the four priorities underlying excellence in execution. The 4A strategy model includes:

  • Alignment: In large, complex organizations, where managers often work in silos and opportunities abound, how does an organization ensure that everyone is focused on the same strategic intent, with shared expectations for high performance, and accountability for results?
  • Ability: Is talent an organization’s most important asset? If so, what does the investment portfolio look like, and how does a leader ensure returns to the business?
  • Architecture: The structures, processes and systems that are supposed to enable work often are the most entangling impediments to effective execution. How do the best companies ensure their organization design propels success rather than impedes it?
  • Agility: Being nimble and able to respond quickly to changes in direction efficiently and effectively is essential. It requires the unique balance of situational awareness, organizational learning and dynamic capability.

Written for executives and corporate leaders, the book offers a clear roadmap for translating strategy into the realities of day-to-day business performance.

“Competition has never been fiercer in business, and the competitive landscape seems to change by the hour,” said Jim Barber, COO of UPS. “As a result, having the best strategy is for naught if you can’t execute — and then constantly adapt — it. Carrig and Snell have provided an invaluable service by providing business leaders with a framework to develop, execute and then adapt any strategy.”

Read more about the 4A framework on Darden Ideas to Action and take the online strategy execution survey.

Snell, the former senior associate dean for Executive Education at the Darden School, is the co-author of multiple books, including Management: Leading and Collaborating in a Competitive World and Managing Human Resources.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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