You have probably noticed the abundance of books and articles focused on business strategy. In each, the author professes how to make your business more successful through numerous models/rules/steps. Have you ever wondered why there aren’t as many materials focused on business execution? Isn’t it just as important to quickly and reliably implement your business strategy as it is to develop it?

When it comes to coverage by educational institutions, books and the media’ business execution takes a back seat to business strategy. In a survey of Amazon, a search on the phrase “business strategy” returned 1,91,622 books. A search on the phrase “business execution” produced 6,335 titles. That is a 30-to-1 ration in favour of business strategy. While this survey isn’t the pinnacle of business research, they illustrate the persistent emphasis on business strategy over business execution.While this comparison is interesting, the more critical issue is that many businesses are failing due to poor execution. According to Fortune Magazine 70% of CEO Failures come not as a result of poor strategy, but of poor execution.

So why do organizations fail at executing their grand strategies. Over the years I have tried to understand the reasons behind execution failure and are illustrated below:

  • Managers are trained to plan, and not to execute.
  • Planning and execution are not treated as interdependent which can lead to major disconnects between strategy and what is, or can be, executed.
  • Execution requires more people and time than strategy formulation.
  • People are not familiar with the company’s strategy.
  • People do not know what needs to be done on a daily basis to move the company towards its goals.

Execution of a business’s strategy requires a significant change in behaviour of – individuals, teams and the whole organization. A change in

  • Clarity: Do your people know the organizations’ top 2-3 goals?
  • Commitment: Do your people buy in to the goals?
  • Translation into Action: Do your people know what to do to achieve the goals?
  • Enabling: Do your leaders take down barriers?
  • Synergy: Do your people work together to arrive at better ways to achieve our goals?
  • Accountability: Do your people account each other for our commitments?

The objective of the article is a clarion call for leaders to focus not only on strategy but also on execution.

Aligning strategy and execution in business can help leaders achieve business goals more reliably and more quickly, increase operating margins and increase employee job satisfaction. The net result is a higher overall business value.

So the next time you reach for a business strategy book, ask yourself if your biggest challenge is with your strategy or in executing it. Chances are your time would be better spent leading the execution of your existing strategy.