Ascendis Blog

How to Implement Strategy and Lead

Often, leaders are tasked with the responsibility of building a strategy, choosing the best means to implement the strategy and assessing the outcomes of the strategy. The challenge is, how do you make this strategy real for the people who will be involved? Gaining buy-in for a strategy at the top levels of the organization can be just as difficult as gaining buy-in for those who will help you implement the strategy. 

Most leaders are accustomed to strategy being set at the executive level, then passed down through the organization to be translated and implemented. However, to help strategy stick, your frontline employees need to feel accountable for how to implement strategy and lead within their circles of influence. Harvard Business Review offers three approaches to help frontline employees take ownership and feel accountable for the company’s future:

1. Communicate and Clarify the Strategy
When employees are involved in creating the strategy, they are already bought into it, making execution both easier and smoother. When that’s not possible, however, the strategy needs to be communicated across the organization. Managers need to relay it to their employees so that it feels real to their part of the company, and valuable to the customer.

Additionally, strategy communications should always be accompanied by metrics, which help frontline employees take ownership over their roles in the execution. The message should be two-fold: this is what we are trying to achieve and this is how we will measure if we are achieving it. It’s the job of managers to explain this to employees and help them integrate it into the work they do, regardless of how direct their relationship is to the customer.

2. Don’t Dictate the Strategy

Leaders and managers can set the vision and targets, but they should not prescribe how employees achieve them. If leaders are too prescriptive about strategy, they may make frontline employees’ jobs easier, but it eliminates their need to think and diminishes their sense of ownership. Often the best strategies don’t come from the top of the organization, and the frontline managers can be a source for a wealth of ideas, as they are often closest to customers.  

3. Use Values to Guide Strategy Execution Decisions

When you don’t dictate to your frontline employees exactly what to do in your strategy, you can begin to rely on your company’s values to help drive their decisions and actions. Thousands of execution decisions are made every day in an organization: a sales rep decides whether to give a large customer a deal on their next order; your researcher decides whether to explore a new feature for your product. It’s impossible for any executive to create a strategy that dictates all of these decisions. And this is where values come in. They help guide actions but also help employees make tough choices, especially when the choice pits employee, customer and stakeholder interests against each other.

What other ways can you enable your frontline employees to take ownership in your organizational strategy? To find out, contact the Ascendis Leadership Academy to take the Organizational Leadership Skills Profile. Please contact Sue Drake at for an overview of the Profile and ways in which it may be used in your organization.