Strategy Is Sexy, Strategy Execution Sucks

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: July 12, 2017
Photo credit: dizain/Shutterstock

Business success is a function of brilliant strategies and excellent execution.

How are your sales to date? Every sales leader I have spoken with could easily answer this question. I am sure you can as well.

Here is a more challenging question: How well are you doing when it comes to strategy execution?

This is a much more challenging question and there is no easy answer.

Business success is a function of brilliant strategies and excellent execution.

For the last 20 years, experts have talked about the challenges with business execution. Experts estimate that 90 percent of companies fail to execute their marketing strategies.

If you are like most of the VPs of sales and marketing that I work with, you love developing marketing strategies and tactics. Developing marketing plans is the sexy part of what you do. It is an intellectually challenging and rewarding process. Yet, when it comes down to business execution this is not the sexy part. Strategy execution deals with nitty gritty details. You hate being mired in detail; it sucks. It’s not fun and certainly not sexy.

We are now well into the year. If you are well ahead of budget, you can take a mulligan on answering the question of how well you are executing. What if your sales are at 90 percent of projections and you can't answer the question about execution? Life is not so good, is it?

The fact remains that companies/business units that do a great job on both strategy and execution are crushing their sales numbers and will continue to do so. They are taking market share away from their competitors and are the preferred organization to work for.

We first need to agree on a definition of execution.

Execution is the discipline of getting the most important things done

From this definition, there are three components that are required for excellence in execution.

1. Importance

With the fast pace of today’s business, commercial organizations are working harder and getting less done. Unless you and your team have identified your critical success factors, you will never be able to answer the question. Chances are your team is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none.    

Execution requires focus. If you want to know how well you are executing, then you need to define what is important to execute. This means that you need to be crystal clear on what your two to three critical success factors (CSFs) are. If you haven't determined your CSFs, then you will be like the 90 percent of companies who fail to execute.

It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? Are you and your team aligned on your CSFs? Do you have a plan on how you are going to achieve them? Have you documented and communicated your plan? If not, you need to stop reading and figure it out.

2. Measurement

Remember the first question I asked: How are your sales to date? You have an objective measurement of sales versus objectives. When asked how are your sales, you can easily rhyme the percentage with the objective.

When it comes to execution, there is no way you can provide the same level of response with any certainty. Right? Not unless you have defined your key metrics on your CSFs and are measuring them on an ongoing basis. This is the detail that we all hate: figuring out how we measure the success of our CSFs. Measuring them is hard work as this requires granular thinking and resources to track. Your financial system doesn't track your CSFs. You need to develop a measurement system. 

The bottom line is that without metrics on your CSFs you are blindly executing with no visibility on how well you are doing.

3. Discipline 

The last component is discipline. Defining your CSFs, building a plan and developing and tracking metrics gets you two-thirds of the way to executing your sales strategy with excellence. The discipline to manage, review and adjust metrics is just as important. Scheduling regular review meetings will close the loop.

More meetings! In the long run, being on top of your business by monitoring and keeping execution on track will save you precious time in trying to figure out why you are not achieving your sales numbers. It will also help you on the path to crushing your sales numbers.

Conclusion

Even though you may not find strategy execution sexy, as it is mired in detail, business execution separates good leaders from great ones. Look at execution as the strategy of getting things done.

If you want to exceed your sales numbers, you need to excel at strategy execution. I have shared the three simple steps to achieve this: 

  1. Get your team aligned on what is important
  2. Establish metrics
  3. Have regular reviews of how you are doing against your execution plan

Now that you have a vision of how to become great at strategy execution, you now must possess the discipline to make it a priority to get it done!

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