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.

What Shape Are You? Start Planning Your Strategy To Match

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.

There is an old quote that goes something like ”if you put two economists together in the same room you will get at least two different opinions”. Well, Russ Banham recently got 26 of them together for an article titled “Shape Shifters” that appeared on CFO.com, and as you might expect they offered widely different points of view! (See the full article here.)

Banham asked the 26 economists to provide their forecast as to the shape the economic recovery will take (i.e. U, V, W…). True to form the economists all came back with very well thought out responses that varied greatly – some reaching into the lower case alphabet for inspiration (h shaped recovery), others going further afield for inspiration (√ shaped recovery).

While an interesting read, I think the article helped demonstrate a several important points beyond the potential direction of our economy, namely:

  • Forecasts are educated guesses – actual results will differ;
  • Forecasts vary – even equipped with the same facts different people will come up with very different views of the future; and,
  • The unreliability and uncertainty surrounding the “dark art” of forecasting makes planning very difficult.

So what is an organization to do? A few best practices come to mind in terms of running an effective planning process and being responsive to actual events as they unfold over the life of the plan. The best practices include: Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers

%d bloggers like this: