Strategy vs Execution


Strategy, without good execution, is meaningless. “When a strategy looks brilliant, it’s because of the quality of execution.”

Rosabeth M. Kanter shares her advice based on decades of experience with executives and CEOs. She states that these 4 implementation imperatives stand out;

  1. Question Everything. Use your stakeholders, team-members, partners, customers, to learn whatever you can about improving your product/service offering.
  2. Inform everyone, then empower champions. Ensure that the message gets across to everyone in the organization, identify the champions who attest/own your vision, and then create momentum by letting these champions deliver.
  3. Keep relationships tight and rules loose. Stay in close contact with your team on the ground. “Shared values knit people together. Arrogance at the top and communication silos below undermine execution.”
  4. Modify quickly. “’Try, test, learn, and modify’ is a better approach than sticking to something that isn’t producing results.”

“A strategy takes shape from what actors do in front of audiences that provide feedback… In fact, successful leaders sometimes wait to announce a strategy until it’s well under way. In short, encourage innovation, begin with execution, and name the strategy later.”

I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. A global organization, which onboarded the brightest minds, strategizing their behinds off, but never inculcated a sense of delivery and accurate implementation upon it’s team. A fast growing organization, which was so fast and flexible to it’s customers’ needs but had not invested enough time and effort in strategizing properly. One was an inertial behemoth and the other a headless chicken.

Shellie Karabell in her article in Forbes Magazine explained the 5 acts of strategy that work;

1. Commit to an identity, rather than just focusing on growth.

2. Translate the “strategic” into the “everyday.”

3. Put your culture to work.

4. Cut costs to grow stronger.

5. Shape the future.

Tim Leberecht opines in his piece on that, “… if your strategy is poor, even the most flawless execution won’t help you (in fact, it will make things worse); and if your strategy is great but the execution flawed, it will not only undercut your strategic intention but also hamper future strategy planning. Execution is a constant: it doesn’t occur after planning; it occurs while planning. Execution is everything, everything is execution.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote: ‘The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.'”

Works Consulted and Cited:

Smart Leaders Focus on Execution First and Strategy Second

5 Steps to Closing the gap between Strategy and Execution

The Truth About Strategy and Execution




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