Strategy vs Execution: Don't Confuse Strategic Thinking and Strategy Execution

By Patrick Thean

dateSun, Jan 29, 2023 @ 08:42 AM


It is easy to confuse your strategy and your 3-year strategic plan. I have seen so many leaders tell me that they have a great strategy. Yet, when asked specifically what their strategy is, they have difficulty sharing the key strategic initiatives they are going to make - and when. If you don't know what it takes to get there, the strategy can be useless. Strategy and strategic moves should not be as complicated as we sometimes make them. This is the very reason that there is a strategy or execution debate. You must do both well to succeed, and you need the right rhythm of work to get it done. It's not strategy vs execution. It is strategy planning AND execution. Business leaders need a good strategy to produce results, but can't get anywhere without an execution plan.

It's not strategy VS execution.
It is strategy planning AND execution

It might be helpful to think about your strategy as having two parts:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Strategy Execution Plans

Part One: Strategic Thinking

Taking the time and effort to think and work on your business.  To succeed, this needs to be a regular rhythm, not an event.  Spend some time every week thinking about your strategic plan.  Set aside a couple of hours to work on your strategy.  I would suggest scheduling time weekly to do this.  If you have a partner in your business, schedule a "strategic thinking hour" together every week.  Leave your office, this could be over lunch.  You might find it easier to produce innovative ideas and new moves in unfamiliar surroundings.  Do not do these meetings in your board room/conference room.  Get outside your own physical box to think outside the box!  

This is where you should develop your strategic growth plans.  What new markets are you going to go in? What new products are you going to launch?  Are you going to expand geographically?  How will you take market share? Strategic planning is a rhythm that your company should be spending time on at least every quarter.

Part Two: Strategy Execution Plans

Figuring out what we are going to do and when. Don't worry about getting it exactly right; with the correct Rhythm of Work, you will adjust as the data dictates.  We can have a strategy and spend time thinking about stuff all day long.  If we do not convert this thinking into doing, we have not accomplished anything. Execution Planning is the process you use to take your strategic thinking ideas and put them into a documented plan of action. Don't let perfect get in the way of good. Who is going to do what and when? How will your team work to accomplish this goal? What resources will they use? What tradeoffs might you be willing to make if your team needs additional resources? Get specific. Get dirty. Get your action plan done. 

The greatest strategic plan in the world doesn't matter if you don't set up a plan to get it done. The strategy execution plans should be realistic so that you can take the large project into bite-size pieces to get things done. You're also able to make adjustments based on feedback from the field and ever-changing market conditions so that you can utilize an agile business plan to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Great companies have execution plans done and ready to discuss, debate, and agree. Good companies wing it a little more often. They set a common goal, communicate it through the company and create cross-functional teams in order to execute their strategy. Having a clear strategic plan is not enough if you don't know how to get there. Creating execution quarterly plans are what keeps your team focused and on track to its destination. 

Watch this quick three-minute video for an overview of strategic execution.  If you'd like to learn more, read all about creating a 3-5 year business plan, or contact us to see if our G2 top-ranked strategy execution software and services will work for you.

Strategy vs. Execution Video 



Interested in learning more about your 3-year strategic plan?

The CEO Strategy-Execution Gap...And How To Fix It

Choose Your 3-Year Strategic Growth Initiatives Wisely With This 4-Step Process

5 Steps to Getting Started on 3-Year Strategic Plans with Winning Moves

Have You Validated Your 3 Year Strategic Plan?

Strong 3 Year Strategic Plans to Grow Revenue and Stay Competitive

16 Strategic Planning Tips to Keep Your Strategic Plan Alive

Don't Confuse Strategic Thinking And Strategy Execution Plans

9 Steps to a New Revenue Growth Strategy [Infographic]

Patrick Thean


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images