Strategy and execution are not distant cousins. They should be considered together, not separately. They should coexist.
Strategy when it works well, is executable
We all know it. However, it’s worth reminding ourselves that strategy must have a direct relationship with the executional capabilities of an organisation. If not, it’s just wasted effort or ‘idea bubbles’ that sound great. There are plenty of people with great ideas and strategic ambitions, but without the ability or resources (especially human ones) to deliver it, there is little point.
Organisational capabilities are those abilities within a business that present as genuine strengths. And ideally, they represent an area of competitive advantage. It might be your supply chain, it may be your design potential, or be the reach of your brand; the point being, your strategy should capitalise on what you are good at and continue to build upon it. Like in warfare, it’s difficult to compete on multiple fronts. The best strategy is to fight according to your strengths – fight on the ‘hill’ where you have the best chance of winning. Then execute with this as a foundation.
Execution that is not strategically directed is inefficient.
Executional activity feels great, there’s lots of work going on and your brand gets activated. Maybe you have embraced the adaptive agile approach in marketing, or perhaps your social ‘likes’ are going through the roof. However, be mindful, that all this activity should build towards a distinctive organisational identity, one that’s consistent with its strategic purpose.
Thoughts on strategy and execution mutuality
- Realise that everyone in the organisation makes choices as to what to do and what not to do. It’s ALL execution, so help your team understand the underlying strategic direction and purpose of the business so these choices are properly directed.
- When being strategic, think: Is this executable? What capability does it require?, Can we focus our investment on it? And do we have the culture to support it?
- When executing, consider: Does this match our unique identity?, Does it use those capabilities we are great at?, What are the things we need to do to succeed and is this one of them?
- Consider a simple one-page strategic framework as the basis for your business. I really like a model called the Collective Ambition Compass.
- Perhaps revisit your value proposition. Is it really based upon distinctive capabilities (ideally capabilities that afford you a competitive advantage)?
- If you need to build or acquire capability, be sure not to chase multiple opportunities – narrow down your focus and investment in the area where you really need to differentiate yourself.
- If you are using Agile principles (good on you!), just make sure that you remain in constant alignment with your strategic direction.
So, can I encourage you to think of strategy and execution as mutual bedfellows.
Sources & Other References:
Paul Leinwand: Creating Strategy That Works. http://www.strategy-business.com/feature/Creating-a-Strategy-That-Works?gko=5d483
Collective Ambition: https://prezi.com/aiyry99kdyj0/the-power-of-collective-ambition/
Roger Martin: ; Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto from 1998 to 2013 and an author of several business books. Martin has expanded several important business concepts in use today, including integrative thinking. He has been recognized by several business publications as one of the field’s most important thinkers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Martin_(professor). In this article he argues that strategy and execution are (or should be) the same thing.