Executing the Strategy Doesn’t Mean You Kill It

By Linda Henman, Ph.D.

A blockbuster product, dazzling service, or cutting-edge technology can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution of a well-developed strategy can keep you there. You have to be able to deliver on your plans—to execute your strategy. Too often companies fail to translate their brilliant strategy and operational decisions into action. In an effort to improve performance, senior leaders too often address the symptoms of dysfunction, not the root causes of it.

Effective tactics form the foundation of execution, but the two differ in that execution goes much deeper. Execution shapes strategy, and strategy defines execution. Strategy formulation involves asking “What?” Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing “How?” questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability. It includes linking the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy to implementation, creating an action-oriented culture of accountability, connecting the strategy to operations, and robust communication. Effective execution means you’ll get answers to these questions:

  1. How do we position products, compared to our competitors?
  2. How can we translate our plan into specific results?
  3. How can we attract the right kinds of people to execute our plan?
  4. How do we make sure our activities deliver the outcomes to which we’ve committed?

In other words, the heart of execution lies in three core constructs: strategy, people, and operations. To implement the strategy successfully and get answers to the above questions, you’ll need to address all three.

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