Doing What Matters: Linking Strategy to Execution in a Way That Works

By Barry Pruitt

Doing What Matters, by James Kilts (Three Rivers Press, 2010), is an update of the frank-talking and Doing What Matters, book by James Kiltsinsightful original released in 2007. Kilts is one of the most successful CEOs of our times. His resume includes Gillette, Nabisco, and Kraft, among others.

In this first person account, he takes the reader through the system that Kilts has used time and again for identifying and tackling what is important and ignoring the rest of the information that you are faced with.

Kilts addresses both the business fundamentals and personal attributes that have lead to his success, such as intellectual integrity, taking action, generating enthusiasm and understanding the right things.

It’s been my experience that one of the critical issues that leaders face is not creating a strategy, but actually executing it throughout the ranks of the organization. In the smaller companies I coach, the dream is in place and easily communicated and understood. Yet, as the company grows, our challenge is to facilitate execution - whether ours or a member of our team.

Execution is a set of linked activities that carry out the critical changes and development efforts that you have worked so hard to create. And, since leaders are trained more in planning than they are in execution, they tend to be more comfortable with strategy creation than execution with their team. The step that makes you more than a survivor in 2013 is mastering the ability to turn planning into doing.

The most successful strategic outcomes are best achieved when your "rank and file" is part of the planning and formulation process. "Buy-in" is critical and the greater the overlap between the doers and the planners, the more successful you’ll be.

You must take execution into account while formulating plans so execution is not an afterthought. Think of execution as a process versus a single decision or action. As Lawrence Hrebiniak, author of Making Strategy Work (Wharton School Publishing, 2005) states, "Execution isn't the result of a single decision or action. It's the result of a series of integrated decisions or actions over time."

In addition to being played out over longer periods of time, strategy implementation always involves more people than strategy formulation - creating additional problems. Communication down your organization or across functions becomes a challenge. Here's what you can do to make execution as smooth and successful as possible:

1. Develop a logical model that allows you to Execute for Growth.

2. Keep the overlap between strategy and execution at the forefront of your weekly meetings.

3. Foster information sharing, coordination and clear accountability.

4. Develop a rhythm that supports a robust execution process. 

Linking your strategic thinking and your execution planning to daily operations will keep your great plans from fading away as they move from the executive team to middle managers and eventually to every employee in the company.


Barry Pruitt


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