Everyone loves strategy. It's the sexy side of business. If you ask someone what they're really good at, or what they enjoy doing most, they'll probably tell you they love to work on strategy.
There's no question that every business needs a strategy--which we'll define as what you do or where you're going and what you are not doing.
But great strategy isn't what separates the great companies from all the rest. It's the companies who figure out how to execute on delivering a simple strategy in a highly repeatable way that returns quality to customers and value to your investors that truly stand apart.
That's the entire premise of the best-selling book Execution written by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, which shows how important this topic is. But it remains one that so many executives seem to miss.
If great organizations are the ones that execute best, why do so many of us find ourselves spending so much time in meetings devoted to strategy?
What do you think could happen if we spent more time on having meetings about execution--about how you could get your organization to that destination you've identified in all those strategy meetings?
Even the best strategy in the world--even something that could change the world--is worth far less than something far simpler that a team can actually execute on. In other words, great execution beats great strategy at every turn.
Consider the example of Southwest Airlines. Their strategy is fairly simple: offer low-cost regional airfare while delivering exceptional customer service. No bells and whistles there. Focus on making short hop flights and hiring friendly and smiling employees. And yet Southwest is exceptional at executing on that strategy. Every time you fly with them, you can expect to receive the same low cost and high degree of service. That's what makes them so successful.
We have all worked for firms that have a constant pursuit of the perfect strategy. Elegant, all-encompassing... perfect. However, these strategies a generally so complex and require many things to go right that they never get executed.
The best firms find a simple strategy, perhaps even uninspired, But they are relentless on execution, refining and honing their ability to do it perfectly every time.
I would even go farther by saying that when it comes to evaluating the strength of a strategy, you need to weigh how feasible it is that your organization will actually be able to execute on it. The best strategy, therefore, is the one that simple enough for your organization can most easily execute on.
That's why execution will always eat strategy for lunch. You'd rather have a B class strategy with A class execution every time.
But making something easy, especially strategy, is often hard--which is a subject I'll follow up on in my next post.