Strategy and execution should be in one camp | Sunday Observer

Strategy and execution should be in one camp

9 January, 2022

Is strategy more important than execution or the other way around?

This is not a question that has a direct answer. It depends on many internal and external factors that are specific to the business conditions you are in.

It is pointless in addressing this theoretical question but what is important is to strengthen both strategy and execution for both to be at its best during the year to conquer the mounting challenges.  

In the pandemic stricken world of declining demand in some industries, rapid cost escalation, and disruptive change, strategy can’t be separate from execution — it has to emerge from execution. You have to continually adjust your strategy to fit new realities. But if your organisation isn’t set up to be fast on its feet, you could easily go the way of Blockbuster or Borders.

As companies all over the world concentrate on revisiting, revising, and remaking their strategies to face new realities, some forget the next critical step: making sure the strategy happens. So it turns out that billions of dollars are spent on brilliant ideas--but not brilliant results. Best strategy poorly executed will not give you any result.

Strategy making is an elegant activity which engages the top management. It’s a sophisticated process of collecting and analysing data, generating insights, and identifying smart ways forward.

Done in an academic fashion, tight logic in fluent language is the only glue needed to hold ideas together. Executives buy into the plan.

The strategists, confident in their intellectual prowess, quietly recede into the background. Then the conflicts begin. Execution is a minefield. The clean and elegant logic of strategy gets dirty in the real world.

Cross functional priorities clash. Speed is questioned, timelines get blown, and decisions stall. Communication breaks down and the blaming environment sets in. It’s never a question of if these problems will happen; it’s a question of when and to what degree.

One camp not two

Strategists and executors are in two camps and getting into one camp is the way to bridge these two worlds. It’s common sense. Unfortunately, it’s far from common practice. What typically happens is an awkward hand-off between the two. They don’t engage the executors early and ask, “How will this actually work?”

The executors contribute to the trouble as well. Often they don’t truly understand the thinking behind the strategy. They take it at face value and don’t ask enough tough questions. When things fall apart, each points a finger at the other side.

Organisations today need to constantly adapt to create and maintain competitive advantage and the marketers have to go beyond the traditional roll to seek new ways to achieve strategic organisational change.

Execution over strategy

The basic step for a company to follow to become more focused on execution or implementation is to create a culture of execution. How does one create such a culture? Let’s look at some basic facts. First, it’s a fact that culture affects behaviour.


An organisational culture includes values, prescriptions on how to act, how to treat others, how to react to performance shortfalls, and how to compete, and these have a profound impact on behaviour.

A related fact, however, also must be kept in mind: Behaviour, over time, affects organisational culture. How, then, does one create a desired culture? By creating behaviour and performance programs that become an integral part of an organisation’s way of doing things.

By creating and reinforcing behaviour and performance programs that affect the very essence of how organisations act and compete, Create a culture of execution by developing and reinforcing behaviors that affect culture.

It is important to design, reward and otherwise support the right behaviour, those that are vital to making strategy work, in order to create and nurture a culture of execution.

Ask yourself, why strategy execution or implementation is viewed as a lower-level task in an organisation? Why assume that execution is a quick, one-shot decision or action and not a journey? Why don’t we believe that strategy execution is a process similar to strategy making? Is the organisational structure geared for effective execution? More importantly, how does one create a culture of execution?

Strategy and execution are both about people. To create strategy we need analytical and innovative people and to execute we need power leaders. Everything else is secondary.

Make strategists and executors one camp; strategists being accountable for execution and vice-versa - this will make the difference for you in 2022.