"Looks like great experience, but can she execute?"
"In this company, everyone is very strategic, so we look for people who can execute."
"What's the point of 'strategy' if you can't execute?"
"Our strategy is to send an e-mail to the customer list to let them know about the change."
"Strategy doesn't pay the bills around here, execution does."
"Execution! Execution! Execution!"
Any of these quotes sound familiar? I have heard versions of these statements throughout my entire career and even worked in one company where we often joked about our "strategy-free work environment". And without much effort, you can undoubtedly find at least one current discussion among all the LinkedIn groups titled "Strategy or Execution, which is more important?". Poor "Strategy"...left in the street with no one to claim it as their own...
It's Not Like We Have to Choose, Do We?
Why do people feel the need to choose only one over the other? Does anyone really believe their execution works better without sound strategic foundations? Probably not, but the pooh-poohing of strategy seems to grow even stronger in a fast-moving world. "Act! Don't Think!" is how I translate that trend.
But spend a moment to think here with me:
EXAMPLE: A marketer known for delivering big on e-mail campaigns has all the skills: A/B Testing, varied subject lines, personalized content, etc. and every month expertly tweaks and cajoles the monthly communications to raise the open rates, click-throughs and conversions so that he can demonstrate his own value and that of the marketing program to his bosses with ever-better ROI every month. Sales connected to the program increase 5% over the year, margins by 2.5%. Great execution wins the day! Or does it?
What if he were actually sending the e-mails to the wrong customer profile (or a less than ideal one)? What if the real driver of sales was one of the accessories being sold with the product, not the product itself? Or what if some customers are spending money on a related product with a competitor only because their preferred Brand doesn't offer it?
Execution Has Many Blind Spots
Well, "Execution" won't expose any of these scenarios to our rock star Marketer....those are the blind spots that Strategy helps you uncover and make the most out of your Marketing.
Taking a step away from execution at regular intervals to spend a little time thinking more deeply about your business and what you are trying to do is EQUALLY important to being an execution pro.
Good Execution THRIVES with good planning, why?:
1. It provides an easy-to-read compass that keeps everyone aligned
2. It uncovers insights (generated in part from your execution) about how to maximize the effectiveness of your execution work.
3. It keeps you and your teams thinking about the big picture (i.e. Customer Satisfaction or Market forces that might impact you) while your execution work is out driving more Leads or Revenue.
4. It is at the heart of making your Brand and your company culture appear accessible, coherent and ultimately desirable to be a part of.
Strategy is about making things SIMPLE. Focus, boil it down, consolidate firepower, etc.
Have You Considered Adoption (Getting Outside Help)?
Not feeling strategic yourself? That's OK. Most small businesses were built by people who excelled at Execution at SOMETHING. Because they loved doing it and customers rewarded them for doing it well. But many of them reach a plateau where they can only go so far on those original skills. Strategic Planning helps them scale beyond their original vision and provides the roadmap to get there. Does this sound familiar too?
Adopt a Strategist! Whether it means bringing someone in to run a strategic planning workshop for you or spending a few months with your team and customers learning your business and helping you evolve your vision into the "next generation" can get you over the hump adn won't mean you need to compromise on your love of execution. In fact, getting help with strategy helps you continue to do what you do best.