I didn’t get a lot of sleep past night – maybe 4 hours . And as I am on to my third cup of coffee this morning , I had a short twitter conversation on the ever green topic of strategy and execution . I couldn’t help post a few random thoughts
I did learn some strategy stuff in business school. It was ultra boring then – and it is ultra boring now . I am only dinging how it is taught – not the idea of having a strategy itself . Countless hours were spent debating mission, vision, strategy, and the like in those two years . None of that helped me one bit – heavily academic stuff .
The first time I started having a sense of strategy and execution being aligned was when I had to hit a hard target in IBM . One year of doing that taught me more than all those books and debates till then. It is quite simple – the best and most viable strategy is execution .
My conspiracy theory on the reason of this misalignment is as follows
A big reason people can’t deal with execution is because they get rewarded in early school life for the steps they take to get a solution for a given problem . If those steps appear to be right – you get a pass , even if the final answer is wrong . The other lesson from school – which is more recent , and it was not the case for my time in school – is that “everyone is a winner”. After 12 years of this indoctrination – I wonder how anyone can survive in corporate world .
Real life seldom rewards the steps – only the outcome matters . My teams past and present have yelled and screamed at me for saying effort doesn’t matter, only results do . And almost everyone of them have thanked me for taking that stance consistently . Hard work that doesn’t lead to desired outcome does not come with a pleasant prize . Same deal with “everyone is a winner” – what a bunch of bull . Every one is not a winner – in sports or in life . Get over it the soonest you can .
There is no such thing as “Strategy was awesome , but execution sucked “. That can also be said as “that was an awful strategy set by people who had no idea how the world works”. Strategy and execution are distinct only because of the time dimension – you need a strategy in most cases before you execute. But the moment the execution starts – there is no distinction , and these two things should converge . Based on feedback from execution, strategy should evolve . And when they converge this way – there is just execution .
People who consider strategy as key and execution as stuff beneath them in organizations needs to think why the big boss is called “Chief Executive Officer” and not “Chief Strategy Officer”.
This is how I view it – Strategy people get direction from the CEO. The non-PC way of saying this is – execution rules, strategy drools .