A Strategy Is Only As Good As Its Execution

A strategy is only as good as its execution. The 2 cannot be done in isolation.

Many people want to be an idea person.

They want to be the one who comes up with the perfect strategy that leads to success.

And leave it to someone else to execute.

The reality is, the planning and execution should go hand in hand.

Every strategy should undergo an iterative process of analysis and revisions based on the realities on the ground, which will only be made known during execution.

To ensure this process happens, it becomes critical that the idea people are held accountable for execution as well.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying planning is bad. Planning is good. But too much planning is bad.

What I’m saying is that an overemphasis of planning and strategizing is in my opinion a trait of risk averse leaders, who over analyze and over plan everything to the point where it becomes impractical.

There’s a saying in the military that even the best strategies can become worthless upon arrival on the battlefield.

strategies can become worthless on the battlefield

One of the things that always bugged me whenever I worked with risk averse leaders in my career, was their tendency to focus too much on the planning of a strategy, trying to cover all bases before implementing. 

They’d spend an unreasonable amount of time “preparing for the unexpected” and coming up with responses to a million hypothetical scenarios. But one critical thing they often seem to miss is evaluating the probability of those scenarios happening.

It bugged me because brainstorming thousands of possibilities and the responses before leaving someone else or some other team to execute the strategy is hindering the company from becoming responsive and agile. Just like in a battlefield, leaders need to be able to take input from the boots on the ground and adjust the strategy based on the what’s actually happening.

Personally, I felt that these leaders could benefit from utilizing a risk assessment matrix and learning about handling risk. In a previous article, I mentioned that I have a framework for handling risk and it looks something like this:

  1. Avoid – Change your plan/route/itinerary to remove the risk
  2. Control – Take steps to mitigate or reduce the impact of the risk
  3. Accept – Just accept it. Some risks can’t be mitigated or avoided in a meaningful way
  4. Transfer – Pay a reputable vendor to manage and take responsibility

If that sounds like something you’d like to read about, check out the article: 3 Lessons From Over a Decade of Engaging in Risky Behaviour

TL;DR – Strategies shouldn’t be developed in isolation and handed off to another team to execute. It needs to undergo an iterative process of analysis and revision based on real world responses to the strategy.