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Strategy vs. Business Execution: What Matters More?

As a leader, you have the power and skills to diagnose challenges and capitalize on strengths in a timely and effective manner—but business excellence doesn’t stop there. More often than not, the best-laid plans go awry because big visions are met with an unclear road map for execution.

Strategy vs. Execution

For leaders, strategy and business execution are uniquely important. Strategic skills allow a leader to create policies, establish direction, and determine how to effectively allocate resources to achieve a larger goal. Execution, on the other hand, involves the tactical, practical skills needed to put a plan into motion. Where strategic thinking allows a leader to craft the future of an organization by making broad decisions, the tactical skills of execution are required to bring the vision to life. How do you know which to focus your energy and time on?


You Can’t Have One Without the Other

The truth is, the best leaders balance strategic thinking and tactics. Building a strategy that embodies your organization is great, but if you don’t have the chops to turn that strategy into an actionable plan, it’s just a pipe dream. Many great visions fall apart before they even get off the ground because of a lack of planning.

A great tactical thinker can take the strategic vision, understand the objective or goal, and break it down into operational pieces. This allows for the planning of actionable steps and realistic resource allocations in order to achieve the desired outcome. For many leaders, however, their strength is either in knowing what to do (strategy) or in how to do it (execution)—but not both. When a leader is balanced in both areas, strategic thinking takes tactical realities into consideration and those very realities are driven by the strategic plan. The question is: How does a leader find the right balance and training to be both a strategic thinker and to thoughtfully execute the organization’s vision?

Achieving Strategic and Executional Excellence

Although it’s critical for organizational leaders to be able to develop strategy, their skills are irrelevant if they can’t follow through. An agile leader is someone who is a pro at crafting and executing organizational strategy. This involves breaking the larger vision down into actionable steps, establishing a plan to track progress, ensuring the right stakeholders are placed in the right roles, and remaining flexible to address any challenges or priority shifts that come up. Once the strategy is set in motion, it’s important for a leader to be able to change tactics—not strategy—to achieve the most successful and impactful results as competing priorities come in.

One of the best ways for a leader to master the arts of both strategy and business execution is through experiential-based training. Learning in this way works because it mimics the same challenges leaders face every day in the workplace, allowing them to learn by doing—not by simply watching, reading, or listening. In fact, retention rates for training that use experiential methods are as high as 80 to 90 percent, compared to traditional learning environments whose rates are just 5 percent. Experiential learning is immersive and engaging—and fun—and puts leaders in the types of scenarios they’ll face every day while executing strategy, giving them the opportunity to practice their new leadership skills in a risk-free, controlled environment. This allows leaders to leave training with the confidence, knowledge, and skills to turn the organization’s vision and strategy into action back at the office.

Strategy and business execution are both vital to any organization’s success, and leaders must be ready, willing, and able to craft the vision and make it actionable. Becoming strategically and executionally excellent is the answer to giving your organization a competitive edge, which can improve engagement and drive results.


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