Strategy or Execution…Which Matters Most?

Slalom Consultant Andrew Houston

Slalom Consultant Andrew Houston is an experienced Finance and Strategy consultant with more than 15 years of experience working with leaders across a broad variety of industries to define and implement solutions to key business issues.

Stop me if you have heard this one before, but an average strategy well executed will beat a great strategy poorly executed—every time. So it goes without saying that execution is key to realizing the value in your strategy, but what does this say about setting your strategy? Does this mean that strategy is not as important as execution?

The danger in the above logic is that organizations can rush or diminish the importance of setting the strategy in order to focus on the execution. The end result risks becoming a terrible strategy well executed.

There are many different approaches to setting strategy but they typically boil down to three key steps, namely:

  1. Understanding the current state–focusing on where you, your competitors, and the market are today.
  2. Identifying the future state–sometimes called the goal or vision. Focused on identifying and quantifying what success looks like, or what the organization is seeking to achieve.
  3. Selecting the strategy–the path to get the organization from its current state to its goal.

None of the above is necessarily complicated, however at the same time it is not always easy. There is a lot of work required to do the due diligence to understand the current state. Identifying the future state requires the organization to build off work done in the current state phase to identify and select the best opportunity for the organization.

With the future state set there is often an urgency to get to execution and this is where the organization risk selecting a “terrible” strategy. Strategy setting requires evaluating across multiple options, permutations, and paths to determine the optimal way to reach the goal. This is a step I often see organizations skip or rush and in not taking the time to think through the different options, the strategy is sub optimal…or “terrible”.

If you have made it this far you have hopefully realize that I am a strong believer in spending the time to establish your strategy, then execute (and execute well). So which matters most? Strategy or execution? They both do.

About Andrew Houston
Slalom Consultant Andrew Houston is an experienced Finance and Strategy consultant with more than 15 years of experience working with leaders across a broad variety of industries to define and implement solutions to key business issues.

2 Responses to Strategy or Execution…Which Matters Most?

  1. Perry Bhamornsiri says:

    The best part about being a Consultant is that most of the time, you never have to pick a side. If someone asks you to choose black or white, you can always say, “well…how about grey?” I can see why you would say both strategy and execution are both important.
    If you ask a Strategy guy what is more important, he will obviously say strategy. If you ask an Operator of a company, he’ll say operations (i.e., execution). I think that a good corporate strategy is having a realistic and not disillusioned view of your company’s capabilities. It’s the job of a management consultant to be the messenger of truth in telling leaders of an organization what those capabilities are. There are too many times where companies will hire advisors to provide them with a strategy that the organization is incapable of executing.
    If you ask me what’s more important, it’s having a practical and executable corporate strategy. Then it’s having the right people, incentives, and structure in place to execute that strategy to its fullest potential.

  2. Pingback: Strategy Execution « leadership

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