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Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Ah, strategy and execution. The yin and yang of the business world; they've been locked in a tango of supremacy for as long as business has existed.

Yet, despite endless boardroom debates and philosophical introspection over wine-fueled dinners, the question remains: Which of these two holds the upper hand?

Let's get started with our elusive friend, Strategy.

Strategy is the road map, the North Star guiding us through the tempest of market variables and pesky competitors. Without it, we'd be like a ship at sea without a compass. But strategy is hard stuff.

A well-crafted strategy is like a symphony, carefully composed with an awareness of every single note, its placement, its interplay with others, and the crescendo culminates to the destination – where the business is really going to compete and win in a competitive marketplace. It's about making choices and consciously deciding not just what to do, but also what not to do.

In essence, strategy defines your playing field, outlines your objectives, and arms you with a macro plan necessary to swoop in and claim victory. Never short-change spending time and resources developing (and continuing to refine) your strategy.

But what's an excellently crafted strategy without execution?

This is when execution saunters in, all substance.

Execution is the act of carrying out the strategy, of taking action, of making things happen. You might have the most brilliant strategy in the world, but without execution, it's just a beautiful dream collecting dust in a boardroom. Strategy without execution is a very costly hallucination for all stakeholders. Execution is the muscle to your strategy's brain, the boots on the ground, where the rubber meets the road.

Effective execution requires meticulous attention to detail, unwavering commitment, and learning from and adjusting to constant feedback.

It's not just about blindly following a plan; it's about adapting and evolving as more information and feedback is gained and/or the terrain changes – with the agility of a dancer. But it's also about taking calculated risks, making tough calls, and occasionally (or better said frequently) rolling up your sleeves to get your hands dirty to make it happen.

So, with all due respect to the spicy dynamics between these two incredibly important determiners of success, which one is more important?

Well, that’s akin to asking whether the chicken or the egg came first. They're intertwined in a delicate duet, each feeding and building on the other.

Strategy gives a purpose, a direction; it a well-defined, achievable dream. But execution is the doer; it makes the dream come true.

The truth is, one without the other is incomplete, like a martini without the olive (and blue cheese, my favorite) or a Bond movie without a car chase and a vixen.

However, if forced to choose between the two, I'd say execution has a slight edge. Why? Because, as Thomas Edison famously said, "Vision without execution is a delusion". The world is full of beautiful, ambitious strategies that never saw the light of day because of poor execution. As beautiful as a strategy may be, it means little until it is brought to life by execution.

But let’s be clear. The critical objectives of every company needs to be ensuring its strategy is well thought through, diligenced and positions the company best to win in the marketplace. And to ensuring its execution interplays harmoniously with its strategy, complementing strengths, compensating weaknesses and is appropriately resourced, ever learning and evolving.

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