Strategy is Overrated, Execution is King

Blog Post

Many executives believe that strategy is the key to creating future organizational success. If that’s true, why is it that time and again, organizations fail to deliver on strategy?

What is Strategy?
The dictionary definition of strategy is “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” If we break down the definition there are two key aspects, plan of action and major or overall aim. Let’s assume that all well-run organizations have a major overall aim or direction and a plan of action for getting there. If everyone has a strategy, why then do so many organizations fail to deliver on their strategy? I don’t believe it’s because of poor strategy, therefore, it must be something else. I say it’s execution.

Execution is King
Execution is defined as “the carrying out or putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.” Action then becomes the central determinate of execution.

We all know that results come from action. But where does action come from? Many believe that strategy, overall aim, or direction drives action. While that may be true for some, it’s not true for most. When you are leading a large organization, you can’t rely on strategy or direction to ensure the right action.

What, then, drives action? We say that mindset and how what we are working on occurs for us drives action. So, if you want to successfully execute on strategy you need to drive action, and your access to driving the action is your team’s mindset.

How, you might ask, do you do that? Context.

Context is defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.”

A leader’s job is to create context around their strategy. To drive successful strategy execution, leaders need to provide teams with Context, the What, Why and How of our strategy. We must create an inspiring future and have our teams see how we benefit collectively and individually for pursuing that future. Not once, but over and over and over and over again.

This, I believe, is the mistake many leaders make. They communicate context but don’t do it consistently. When we are leading we need to be on constant lookout for our teams’ mindset and how the work they are doing occurs for them and continuously create and refine their mindset to ensure the team takes the actions necessary for success.

Coaches of championship teams are a great example of this. Championship coaches are consistently monitoring and working on their players’ mindset. They do it through context and you should too.

While context doesn’t ensure execution, it is the most valuable tool we have for driving execution of strategy.

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