Blame is often distributed generously when companies don’t obtain the expected return on investment. Most often, the “execution” phase becomes the accused party. As noted in a recent article in the Harvard Business Journal, it is common for businesses to follow the mantra that “a mediocre strategy well executed is better than a great strategy poorly executed.” The article argues that the metaphor is misguided, and that having a good strategy is important. Therefore, a poor strategy won’t cut it even with a spectacular execution.
We agree. Success depends to a great extent on a sound strategy – because even great execution simply follows a blue print. A key element to designing a good strategy is considering the realities and needs of the business from the perspective of the staff that will execute strategy, as well as management’s expectations. Communication across the board is important if you want to start on the right foot.
Having said that, once you have a sound strategy it is not wise to underestimate the importance of the execution phase. Follow-up, guidance and communication will continue to be necessary throughout the execution phase. This way management can determine if processes are flowing effectively and if there are any areas for improvement.
Strategy and execution go hand-in hand. Although it is essential to stick to the strategy’s framework, it is also important to allow it a measure of flexibility. Thus, the strategy can be modified or improved according to the needs of the company’s day to day operations. Companies and – especially- organizations that depend on external funding are subject to ebbs and flows, and do not always operate under ideal circumstances. The strategy must be able to adapt to changes.
In conclusion, strategies should not be abstract concepts designed from the top-down. Their design requires communication with all levels of the company to become truly effective. Execution must be properly monitored to ensure the strategy is implemented correctly. Both phases are important and fulfill specific needs. Both must be approached seriously if your goal is success rather than reaching a state of “good enough”.
 Roger L. Martin, “Drawing a line between strategy and execution almost guarantees failure,” Harvard Business Review, July – August 2010, 66.