“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

“I’m in favor of it.”

  • John McKay (1923 – 2001), American football coach, when asked about his team’s “execution”

Strategy and execution are two different things.

I am still open, though, to the idea of using one word to address their relationship.

Many businesses are heading into strategic planning and budget season, when it can be tempting to erase (or at least blur) the line between the two. And, if we break the concept down to adverbs – strategy ultimately is the what, and execution is the how that drives us.

Let’s not forget the why…

Why? (See what I did there…?)

Strategy is almost exclusively about the top line (since that’s where all the math ultimately starts), yet for owner / operators it can’t only be about revenue growth. There needs to be a “true north” steeped in “Why?” Why do we want to grow revenue? Why do we want to become the market leader or move up in market share? What does that mean to our customers, our team, our shareholders? Porter’s concept, (also frequently attributed to Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Jim Collins, etc) is best informed by a “why” that guides us in selecting what not to do. If a strategy runs in conflict to our why, we ought not to pursue it, in other words.

If “what” and “why” are aligned, then the focus turns to the how — execution. Not the kind that Coach McKay joked about when his team played horribly, mind you, rather the kind that determines how much headcount we can keep, how much we charge, how much we discount, how much we return to shareholders.

In budget and planning season, “stratecution” may ultimately be our focus. Let’s just make sure we get the two parts in the correct order, and sandwich a solid “why” in there to balance the two.

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