Strategy or Execution, What’s More Important?

By: Wesley Legg

A lot of emphasis is put on having the right strategy in business. Strategy is important, but I wonder if we spend too much time talking about vision and fresh ideas and not near enough time on good ole fashion execution. Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War wrote, “Weak leadership will destroy the finest strategy – while forceful execution of even a poor strategy can often bring victory.” In other words, bad decision managing destroys even the best decision making.  When you don’t achieve the results you desire, don’t be too quick to blame the strategy, but instead first put a microscopic eye on the execution.

I recently heard a great presentation from Dan Barnett, CEO of The Primavera Company. The presentation was called Make or Break Execution: The Core of Success. A “make or break” is the one thing your company must do extraordinarily well to achieve your vision. Dan started his presentation by saying every company has a make or break and the best business leaders drive toward their “make or break” with great focus and detail. Dan isn’t talking about reviewing results a month after the fact to see how your company performed. By then it is too late to change the past and likely too late to shape the near future. What if you could see how you’re tracking toward your “make or break” results on a regular and real time basis and with enough lead time to see the problems standing in the way of desired results?

Getting the results you desire doesn’t just happen. If you need to lose 100 lbs in 5 months, it is going to take more than a good exercise and diet plan. Reaching your goal will take executing the plan with disciplined activities. If you have the proper plan and you’re executing the plan, you don’t even have to get on the scale. You’ll know you’re going to achieve your results by measuring your activities.

Let’s say you’ve asked a weight loss expert to review and hold you accountable to your weight loss plan. They review it and approve the plan, but the way they decide to hold you accountable is to meet you at the end of every month to record your weight. If at the end of the month you’ve lost no weight, there is nothing your accountability partner can do to help you make up for that lost month. You now have only 4 months to lose 100 lbs, a much lower probability. What if instead of checking the scale every month, you’re required send your weight loss expert a daily report of your exercise activities and everything you ate? Assuming you’re honest about your exercise and eating, they can now give you near real time feedback and have better insight into whether or not you’re going to achieve your goal. This is a key way to ensure you are enhancing the value of your business on a daily basis.

The same concepts can be applied to business. For every inch of strategy and vision/goals, you need miles and miles of solid execution. Good results come from doing the right activities. Yet we’ve all been guilty of painting a vision without devising a plan, devising a plan and not executing or holding other accountable to do the same. When we don’t get the results we want we wonder what happened. Fulfilling a vision requires you to determine what activities it’s going to take to meet your goal and measuring those activities on a daily/weekly basis. This simple, but important discipline will provide clarity for you and your team and keep everyone focused on the things that matter most.