Strategy Planning Vs. Strategy Execution


During my client engagements, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what the difference is between Strategic Planning and Strategic Execution. I’ve also had many leaders tell me that they handle the more strategic issues while their teams focus on execution. The difference has also been described to me as thinking vs. doing. Or as, much to my chagrin, executive level vs. manager level. My answer to the Strategy Planning Vs. Strategy Execution question is this: Strategy IS Execution.

Let me explain. Strategy is about choices to differentiate and win. Part of making choices includes the markets, customer, products you’ll focus on, how you will be different, and the capabilities and management systems required to link all these choices together. What has traditionally been thought of as “execution” becomes the essence of the organization’s strategy. Said differently, if you spend time identifying the markets, customers, and products you’ll focus on and the differentiating elements you’ll employ but spend no time outlining the resources necessary to win or how you will align those resources, you don’t really have a strategy.

You see, most organizations are pretty good at developing products and services to help them meet the growth target. If they aren’t good at this, well, they don’t hang around long. But, in my experience, these same organizations usually don’t have a good handle on the resources necessary to win. Notice I said win. Organizations usually identify the resources they think they need or resources they used to need. However, very few organizations spend the necessary time identifying the capabilities required and the management systems necessary to win. Let me offer a theoretical example. Let’s say a food manufacturing company decides they will win by offering the absolute best tasting food products out of their entire competitive set. That would be a worthy strategic choice indeed. But, at the same time, let’s say this company neither shifts resources into the Quality and Food Science department nor enhances any of their systems for measuring taste preference vs competitive items. Let’s say they neglect to develop any systems or materials for training sales people how to sell the company’s taste story. How effective do you think their Taste Leadership choice is going to be?

If your organization separates Strategy and Execution in practice or in belief, be careful. You may unintentionally be driving confusion and frustration throughout your workforce. If you would like an evaluation of your Strategy to ensure you have the correct alignment, please reach out to me at

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