As business leaders we have the power and skills to diagnose challenges, to capitalise on our strengths in a timely and effective manner and to build strategic business plans that will grow our businesses. But business excellence does begin and end with strategy. More often than not, the best-laid plans go awry because big visions have been matched with an unclear road map for execution. Gartners recognised this tendency when they produced their hype cycle diagram
The hype cycle is ostensibly about technology projects but time and time again I have seen a virtually parallel position over business plans.
Simply trade ‘technology trigger’ for business planning season; ‘peak of inflated expectations’ for business plan and ‘trough of disillusionment’ for failed execution. Step back and you can easily lay this wave form over many, many businesses.
On both iterations of the charts the ‘plateau of productivity’ can only be achieved by realism and hard work. By turning the inflated hopes into executable business plans.
Strategy vs. Execution
For business leaders and owners, business strategy and business execution have to be the two sides of one coin. Strategic skills allow an owner/leader to create policies, establish direction, and determine how to effectively allocate resources to achieve a larger goal. Execution, on the other hand, involves the tactical, practical skills needed to put a plan into motion. Where strategic thinking allows a leader to craft the future of their organisation by making broad decisions, the tactical skills of execution are required to bring that vision to life. To put flesh on the bones and priorities where to focus your energy and time on?
Strategy & Execution Go Hand in Glove
The reality is that the best leaders balance strategic thinking and execution. They build a strategy that captures the strategic objectives and goals of the business. But then they go onto turn those strategic objectives and goals into an actionable plan. That is a great business.
Without those detailed actions, then no matter how good the business strategy is it is simply a pipe dream. I have seen many great visions fall apart before they even get off the ground, simply because of a lack of planning.
A great tactical thinker will take a strategic vision, get their head around the objectives and goals, and then break it down into operational pieces. Personally, I treat strategy in a manner akin to the old ‘Sand, Gravel, Rocks’ experiment from school. The strategy is the big rock, and you only ever have one of those in a business. Whether it is a drive to create a new technology, or deliver a revenue or profit number, or even to own a market segment. That is your strategic objective. But the question remains, what do we need to do to achieve that strategic objective?
The first step is identifying the strategic pillars that will deliver the objective. These strategic pillars are the gravel. You may need Sales, Marketing, Production, IT, Finance pillars, there may be others, but without these delivering the objective will not happen. So, you create an owner and a timeframe. Creating ownership is the ‘execution’ equivalent of ‘what gets measured gets done’. People put skin into the game. This is the first step in creating an actionable execution plan. But what has to happen within each of these strategic pillars? This is where the third and final part, the ‘sand element’ comes in, you identify each individual action that will deliver the strategic pillar. Take for example a marketing pillar. You need to know when the campaigns will run, what has to be done to ensure that run, where they need to be targeted, how you will know if they have succeeded and why the campaign is running. This rock, gravel, sand approach allows for the detailed planning of actionable steps, the realistic allocation of resources, and the attribution of ownership to ensure it all happens, gets measured, and is reported. It is how great businesses execute on strategy in order to deliver sustainable growth and increase their value.
For many leaders, however, their strength lies in knowing what to do (strategy). How much of that strength is effectively applied in their business is having the wisdom to add in ‘the how to do it’ (execution) skill to their team.
If you are one of those highly gifted business owners/leaders who is balanced enough to command in both areas, whose strategic thinking takes tactical realities into consideration. If you then drive those realities through your strategic plan, congratulations you are truly gifted. Recognise that you will often be lonely surrounded by people who only see one side of the business coin.
If on the other hand you have the awareness to recognise you are a visionary and strategist then maybe the question to ask is: How can I find the right balance and training to add thoughtful execution to my strategic thinking and vision?
Achieving Strategic and Executional Excellence
Evoke Management is a team of experienced business leaders and practitioners who have spent their lives honing their execution skills. With expertise encompassing Financial and Commercial disciplines Evoke Part-Time Directors are professionals at crafting and executing business strategy. They possess the ability to break the larger vision down into actionable steps, establish a plan to track progress, ensure the right stakeholders are placed in the right roles, and remain flexible to address any challenges or priority shifts that come up. They also have the experience to know that once your strategy is set in motion, it’s important for the business to change the tactics rather than the strategy in order to achieve the most successful and impactful results.
Strategy and execution are equally vital to any businesses’ success. Evoke provides the ‘execution’ expertise to come alongside your strategic vision, and are ready, willing, and able to craft that vision and make it actionable. Evoke enables your business to become strategically and executionally excellent and give you a competitive edge that will improve engagement and drive exceptional results.