Strategy and Execution – Mutual Bedfellows


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.

Thank you.




Sources & Other References:

Paul Leinwand: Creating Strategy That Works.

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. In this article he argues that strategy and execution are (or should be) the same thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Author, David Gaff It seems that in business these days being agile is the new, new thing. We may know of Agile’s heritage in software development yet, how is it manifesting in the world of marketi…


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


eDM_Header-okAuthor, David Gaff

It seems that in business these days being agile is the new, new thing. We may know of Agile’s heritage in software development yet, how is it manifesting in the world of marketing?
So while there is no formal Agile Marketing Manifesto, there is a universal desire to make marketing more transparent, more accountable, more productive and more adaptive to change.

The promise of Agile Marketing is three fold:  Speed, Alignment and Engagement.

Let’s take the first promise, speed. The need for speed is addressed by using a series of rapid marketing sprints, reviewing at the end of each sprint what worked and what didn’t – and then adapting as necessary. For this to work, the traditional budgeting process won’t suffice. Money needs to be put aside to respond – so the response is to change over religiously following a plan.

What about Agile Marketing improving alignment with the whole of business? We all know that as soon as marketing becomes siloed, it is the start of decline for both the business and department. Essential to each marketing sprint is a sprint planning meeting between relevant departments, outlining KPI’s and opportunities for collaboration. Agile Marketing is collaborative and adaptive at the core ensuring excellent communication right across stakeholder groups.

Lastly, engagement with customers and consumers is the key to marketing success. There’s nothing wrong with planning, however with Agile Marketing you can act like the General in the field closely following the battle, adjusting and resetting according to how events unfold. As marketing teams do this they become closer to the customer and consumer. With engagement being the result of this closeness and understanding.

So What?

Well marketing can learn a lot from Agile. The world has changed and so has marketing and its role within businesses. So it’s worth exploring how the adaptive nature of Agile can enhance Marketing’s speed, alignment and customer engagement. And ultimately, increasing the effectiveness of marketing effort

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The secret ingredient for successful B2B branding


Author, David Gaff

If you think the role of B2B marketing is to make your brand as appealing to your customer, then you are missing at least half of the equation.

The reason I say this, is because inevitably, there is a customer of the customer – an end user if you like. These end users, are in many cases more important to your long term ability in growing sales, increasing price and building sustainable brand equity. The problem for many B2B businesses is that they are far removed or have no competencies required for the downstream value chain.

This is one of the reasons I love B2B marketing. This multi-layered challenge allows for real strategic and creative thinking not possible in many consumer markets.

So of course there’s a critical job in facilitating direct sales, however sustainable success for your brand is more likely once you embrace the idea of your brand being an ingredient in your customer’s brand experience. And as an ingredient brand, the challenge is to make your customer’s brand/product better than if your brand was absent.

Brands like Intel, Teflon and Stainmaster are great poster boys for ingredient branding. They truly are brands that end users value and do pay a premium for. For me, this is logical and pretty easy to understand. Yet, so many B2B businesses continue to define their brands around their manufacturing features or distribution capabilities, pushing themselves upon their customers. Increasingly I am observing that these types of companies are facing an uphill battle to maintain price premiums and sales volumes with success determined not by the strength of their brand but rather the quality of their procurement form submission.

No matter what industry or category your B2B business operates in, I encourage this ingredient / end user thinking. Sometimes this thinking simply leads to better relationships with customers – customer intimacy is not a bad outcome by the way! Your B2B brand could be inputting into end user insights, lead generation and or product innovation. Further to this, sometimes this ingredient brand thinking can redefine the purpose, the competitive set and ultimately the financial engine of the company. Do we need more influence along the value chain? How is this best attained – vertical integration, new channels, new end user utility?

Whatever the results of the ingredient branding approach, the likelihood of increased innovation, improved customer intimacy and disruptive thinking are distinct possibilities. Said another way, it’s pull versus push thinking. It’s not revolutionary, however can you answer the following questions?

What’s your brands secret ingredient? And for good measure, how does it make your end user brand experience better?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Is your brand ready for the Collaborative Economy?

eDM_HeaderThe age of hyper consumption is on the decline. Our planet’s resources are struggling to sustain it and most interesting is the Collaborative Consumption trend. Consumers are now empowered through digital and social platforms and are beginning to shun traditional business models and are sharing – anything from a room to a power tool. Recently, I presented these thoughts to RMIT Masters in Communication students and it stimulated my thinking. What’s in store for established brands as the age of collaboration takes full effect?

So many questions

What does it mean for brands with established distribution networks and massive capital infrastructure behind them? Can brands continue to grow in ways they always have? Will brands be able to share their assets? How will brands collaborate for greater good? What is the economic outcome of collaboration? How what’s the balance between short and long-term stakeholder requirements?

Let’s start by looking at the fundamentals of Collaborative Consumption.

If your brand operates in a market place where there are under utilised assets, then it’s likely that consumers and customers will be capable of sharing them. If the technology exists to facilitate sharing, then this will happen quickly. And if a shared product or service unlocks new savings or new speed to market capabilities for the consumer then a new value proposition and market segment will be established. Lastly, if the consumer has been taken for granted over the decades then there is likely to be an attitude or appetite for disruptive behavioural change.

As always, trust and reputation are key drivers of performance.

The Collaborative economy is like a step back into the past where trust and reputation was peer-to-peer based. Where we knew the butcher, the green grocer or even our neighbour. We could easily assess their trustworthiness and knew about their reputation. It was personal.

As the age of the brand took over, trust and reputation was sourced via the institution and the brand. The brand became about critical mass and hence, less personal. Success was derived through a brand’s physical and mental availability to its customers and consumers –indeed, to a large extent, it still is.

So the age of collaboration is really a return to the past. It’s a return to peer-to-peer and personal, customised preference. The key difference is that today, this peer-to-peer trust and reputation is enabled by the emerging digital technologies that have created scale and an empowered, knowledgeable customer andconsumer.

So what?

The first thing to acknowledge is that traditional ways and methods of commerce will always be relevant. However, the rise of collaborative businesses and brands will mean that there is the threat of disruption and in some cases serious market share loss.

However, we need to think of the Collaborative Economy as an opportunity.

Immediate opportunity 1 – Imbed a Culture of Collaboration

The opportunity to imbed collaborative thinking and behaviour into the organisation itself is massive for any organisation. The impact of Collaborative technology, work practices and infrastructure has been proven by Deloitte Access Economics to increase the quality of work by 73%, increase innovation by 60% and increase employee engagement by 56%. And if that’s not enough, Collaborative organisations are twice as likely to outgrow their competitors!

Immediate opportunity 2 – Creatively find uses for under utilised assets

What organisation doesn’t have under utilised assets? How much creative thinking time is actually devoted to working out how these assets can be better utilised – not a great deal of effort is my assumption. CROA (Cash Return on Assets) is a key financial metric on asset utilisation and a hard measure to evaluate and define success of your collaborative efforts. Grow this ratio and your Finance Director will love you!

Immediate opportunity 3 – Call The Collaborative Agency for a deeper discussion

If being prepared for the opportunity the Collaborative Economy represents to your business, then please talk to us further about our Collaborative Workshops and Consulting Services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


If only 10% of Australians are impulse shoppers, 85% routinely shop in the same way and 60% rarely venture outside the same 10 bricks-and-mortar and online stores*, how does a pack get noticed?

Try making your customer look twice and smile.

Here, I’ve compiled some new and old favourites that go beyond cute characters, bright colours and quirky fonts and employ clever design to surprise, delight and attract new customers.

pack images

If you’re interested in packaging or brand development please contact me.



Professional observation 


Inside Packaging 

Packaging of the World 

Lovely Packaging 

The Dieline 

Daily Contributor

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



We are excited to announce the acquisition of a digital agency that puts digital at the core of the agency’s growing in-house expertise and capabilities.

We have embraced a team of digital developers covering an extensive array of front and backend capabilities. Plus we now have in-house, specific digital project management, QA and business analysis functions. And being The Collaborative Agency, we were thrilled to acquire a proprietary digital workflow system, which allows for clear and effective communications, promoting collaboration at all levels between client, developer and any external party.

However, our digital capability doesn’t stop at user experience, design and development.

We strategically believe in the PAID, EARNED and OWNED media model and have assembled a fantastic collaborative team of digital media specialists to leverage SEO, PPC, Programmatic media buying and Social Media opportunities.

So what?

Sticking to the theme of our Blog, what is the ‘So What factor’ for our clients?

Quite simply our ability to execute digitally is now at a new high. We can embrace new technologies more effectively and deliver outcomes that provide the brands we collaborate with, even greater digital utility.

Blog_WebsitesSome of our recent digital works

Like to know more? Give us a call on 03 9510 8200.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments