How to Implement Effective Strategy
William A. Swope is corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's Corporate Sustainability Group. In this role, he is responsible for driving Intel's environmental efforts in the areas of policy, operations and products. Swope works with stakeholders across the company to ensure that Intel continues to build upon its industry leadership in sustainability.
Since joining Intel in 1979, Swope has held numerous roles including corporate affairs leadership, manufacturing technology planning, strategic product planning and product management. Swope was director of Digital Enterprise Brand Management, and prior to that he was general manager of the Software and Solutions Group (SSG), reporting to the president and chief operating officer of Intel. In that capacity he managed the software products and enabling efforts within SSG. From 1993 to 1995, Swope was the general manager of the Intel® Pentium® Pro processor team. Swope was promoted to vice president in 1996 and corporate vice president in 2003.
Swope received his bachelor's degree in applied physics from Tufts College. He earned his master's degree in management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Question: How does Intel implement strategy?
Swope: Most people don’t have a strategy. Most people have a series of sort of PowerPoint Foils or written in some format that is handed down by a strategic planning group and people are told to go do them. So, in that light, I actually don’t know how to be successful if you start there. And, again, let us just start talking about strategy. There is a product strategy. There is a business strategy. There is a manufacturing strategy. There is a supply chain strategy. It only until you get to that level of specificity and then in each one of those you have to really agree on what you’re trying to accomplish. You have to agree in the goal set. You have to agree on how things are going to be measured. You have to agree on the consequences of [this and that]. You have to agree to external benchmarks. If you start with those basic premises and you’re getting the management team working together not to read the foil someone else created, but to be working with the central teams to get that right, then implementation although always difficult takes on a very different focus. Most implementation fails because people never really did agree with the goal.
Question: How does Intel manage change?
Swope: People like progress. They just don’t like change. So, that really, although it’s trite you’ve got to start off by saying, this is what we’re trying to accomplish. I want to end up here. Where do you, guys, want to end up? You’ve got to start by explaining what is the end-state that you’re trying to achieve, and then work with them. They might have a better idea how to achieve it. But if they don’t, then as a leader you’ve got to eventually say, okay, we’ve kind of examined this one for a while. We’ve examined it as dispassionately as we’ve can. We’ve put it on the wall. We’ve admired it from all angles. Do we still agree this is the goal? If we agree this is the goal, then at least this is one path from where we are right now to achieve that goal. And there’s just no substitute for that. We do annual plans at Intel and then we do plan updates once a quarter. So, once a quarter we at least look at, if you will, the next 6 to 9 months and just say, are we still operating? And then every year we also do a 5-year plan. So, we’ll say, is our longer-term vision on this, you know, still rational? Do we agree we want to be in these following markets, right? We obviously are going to stay in the control logic of computing for it one time, but we are in other markets as well. And are we positioned there? Are we doing the right things? Do our corporate goals now fit in line with where we had the divisions or is everyone in synch for that? And that’s a longer-term sort of discussion. So, that would be, I think, the two parts of it, continuous planning, knowing the timeframe that you are trying to plan for, but I can’t stress enough my belief and I think the corporation’s belief, that most of these don’t work because people are not aligned on the goal, and not being aligned on the goal, you get what is called either disagree and don’t commit or malicious compliance or whatever those negative words are. But whatever you end up with, you never really were in agreement on what you were trying to accomplish as an organization.
Will Swope notes the glaring lack of strategy in many companies
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