Blending Execution with Strategy
It’s no coincidence that growth executives in the top 22 percent of companies make their number consistently and predictably. They accomplish this by working on strategy and execution in unison.
CEOs who overweight strategy to the expense of execution and follow-through, often suffer from periodic short-term revenue misses. They sound good but they don’t produce because their plans never materialize into focused action. Other executives concentrate on execution but do so with under-developed and inaccurate plans. This group suffers from periodic long-term revenue misses. They generate activity but without the strategic guidance to ensure it is correctly focused.
Both cases put the revenue number at risk by focusing too heavily on either strategy or execution, frustrating boards and shareholders who then question the sales leader’s ability to reliably make the number.
What sets market-leading CEOs apart in this regard?
They emphasize the importance of making a crisp distinction between strategy and tactics. Simply put, strategy involves doing the right things; tactics involve doing things right. And they align their corporate, product, marketing, and sales functions accordingly.
These CEOs require their functional leaders to produce execution plans that can tracked, updated, and establish accountability. Here is an example of one used recently for a Marketing Reorganization. It contains all the needed elements – task, owner, date, dependency, and phase. All in a simple format that is easy to manage.
For example, determining whether your company’s competitive advantage is price, product, or customer experience is a strategic decision. The answer should guide your investments in time, money, and resources. In turn, your sales process (i.e. one of the tactics executed by a functional leader), will be driven by different requirements and capabilities needed to achieve each different competitive objective.
Here are three different views on the dangers of poor execution across the various revenue-related functions:
Measuring Sales Execution to Deliver the Number
Is Execution Your Marketing Achilles Heel?
How Product Launch Execution Can Make or Break Your Forecast
Net/net — a masterful blend of strategy and execution is the difference between consistently making or missing your number.
Assessing Potential Outcomes
The strategy-tactics matrix is a tool SBI uses to assess companies ability to drive outcomes based on how they perform on strategy and execution. Each quadrant is described below…
Achieving Clarity and Alignment
To move to a better quadrant in the strategy-tactics matrix, CEOs must align strategy and execution across the organization.
Ask your functional leaders of product, marketing, and sales to describe the difference between a strategy and a tactic. Have them give you an example to illustrate their thought process. Have them plot your company, and then have them position their team in a quadrant on the matrix.
The answers you receive will tell you how much work you have ahead to drive clarity and alignment in your business. Those answers will also indicate how likely you are to hit your number in 2019.
Once everyone understands the clear distinction between strategy and tactics, you can quickly test which quadrant characterizes your company, business unit, division, department, or team.
Survive. A brilliant plan executed poorly results in survival, but not full potential. Think of Tesla or Starbucks. They have well-defined strategies, but inefficient tactics to execute them. If Tesla and Starbucks drive their tactics more efficiently they could move to the Thrive quadrant.
Thrive. A brilliant plan executed brilliantly results in remarkable outcomes. Think of Apple, Amazon.com, or Southwest Airlines. The leadership, their employees, and in many cases their customers have a high degree of clarity about those companies’ strategies. As a result, their product, marketing, and sales functions are aligned to execute tactics effectively in support of those clear strategies.
Die Slowly. A poor plan executed poorly results in a slow death. Think of BlackBerry or Target. Both still exist, but are shells of what they once were. Their strategies are ineffective and the tactics in place to execute against those strategies are inefficient. Even if they were to suddenly revamp their strategies, they also would need to execute tactics much more effectively to thrive.
Die Quickly. A poor plan executed brilliantly results in a quick death. Think of Ted Airlines. Do you even remember them? United’s low-cost airline alternative, was intended to compete with Southwest. Song Airlines was Delta’s version. In both cases the fundamental strategy was flawed but the implementation of each strategy was quite efficient. Neither was successful and both died very quickly.