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Execution & Strategy

In contrast to what may be considered conventional wisdom, I don’t believe that execution is where leaders and companies typically need the most help. What I have seen is that more attention is given to it than all the other business disciplines combined. As a result, I believe that an over focus on execution at the expense of the other disciplines is one of the biggest issues facing companies today.

I’m not implying that execution can or should be ignored; far from it. Depending on the service or product that the organization produces, it is logical to assume that there are varying degrees of focus that it should demand. The challenge is that leaders tend to see execution myopically as where “they make money”, and therefore spend inordinate amounts of their limited resources on improving that singular aspect of their company. It doesn’t matter if that focus on execution is related to sales, field operations, or manufacturing efficiencies; if that focus is out of balance compared to the other needs of the company, results will suffer.

The difficulty is that business people typically are not developed in ways that foster a systems-thinking mentality. Companies tend to value and therefore focus on technical expertise (that often is quite narrow, and execution based) at the expense of developing broader business aptitude and experience. This often leaves current and future leaders at a disadvantage, especially when making decisions that may have long-term consequences in unexpected places.

The solution to this is multi-faceted but begins with the development of a long-term strategic plan for the organization. Of course, the creation of the roadmap for the company to follow into the future is the most recognized benefit of investing in strategic planning.

Most leaders though don’t recognize that there are many other benefits as well. One of the less recognized is its usefulness as a teaching tool, as there is no better place for our people to get an overall picture of the organization than the strategic plan. Properly developed and implemented, it shows the critical interdependence of the various business disciplines in a way that is difficult to articulate by any other means. It is systems-thinking at its core, and in recognition of the difficulty in developing a systems mindset among our people, it becomes invaluable people development asset.

As 2023 comes to an end, and you consider your budgets and initiatives for 2024 (and hopefully beyond), look at your strategy in the context of a balanced system that doesn’t prioritize any single discipline over the others.

If you haven’t yet created or implemented a strategic plan for your business, be sure to consider all the benefits and value that a well-conceived and implemented strategy can provide, including developing your people.

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