WTF – Great Execution or Great Strategy?

By Dave Cleveland

Are you kidding me?  Detailed three, four and five-year strategies and most of us don’t even know what will happen in the next six months.  Back in the 80’s and 90’s, many of us became enamored with long-term, and I mean long, strategies.  Unfortunately, we were lost in the ozone.

The success rate of these long- term strategies is not very encouraging.  Daniel Prosser’s book Thirteeners hit the nail on the head.  Per Prosser, only thirteen percent of the critical actions from those precious strategies actually get implemented.  Less than one in six.  With that kind of success rate, we didn’t earn the cocktails and dinner we enjoyed after our last strategy session.

Jaime Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said it best, ”I’d rather have a first-rate execution and second-rate strategy any time than a brilliant idea and mediocre management.”

Most of us have the attention span of a Labrador Retriever.  We can’t think and plan in multiple years.  We do good to think about the next quarter.

Strategies that focus on a three-year picture of success and then get more specific in actions over the next 12 to 18 months have the best chance for success.

Stephen Covey probably had the execution part most correct when he said, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”  Gino Wickman in his book Traction called the 90-day actions critical to a business’ success Rocks, and, to paraphrase Covey, we should do big Rocks first.  Huh, it’s not nuclear physics is it?

In fact, if you coupled that with a broad focus on what you need to do this year in order to meet your 3-year vision of success, who knows, you might actually get it right.  Complicated multi-year plans, of a future we cannot really identify, are actually a recipe for disaster.

WTF (“Win the Future”) is a coaching blog for business leaders and owners.  Advice provided in WTF comes from our experience in helping hundreds of business leaders improve the performance of their companies and achieve their personal objectives.  The advice is typically worth at least what you paid for it.

Subscribe to our blog