How to create an executable strategy

How to create an executable strategy

Successfully executing on strategy requires great planning, so we asked strategy experts their best practice for creating executable strategies.

9/10 businesses are failing at their business and strategy execution. Half of these companies will be failing at the actual execution of strategy, and others will have created a strategy that's simply not suitable for succesful execution.

Once you've decided that your strategy is good enough on paper, you need to ensure that it's executable. The below list of expert tips will help you analyse your roadmap to make sure that any potential flaws can be covered before starting.

Daniel Montgomery Strategy

Daniel Montgomery, Strategic Agility Coach & Author

A good strategy is a series of clear choices that identifies what you will - and will NOT - do. It serves as a guide to decision making throughout the organisation, so wishful thinking won't cut it. First, define your vision for the future and what values support that.

Second, be clear about where you will play - markets, demographics, psychographics, geography. Business is not like football - you define the rules and the playing field.

Third, how will you win at that game?

Fourth, what capacities and systems do you need to win? How will you measure success? And last, what operational plans and initiatives do you need to get there? (Credit to Roger Martin for this idea of a "Strategy Cascade").

Cansel Sorgens Strategy

Cansel Sorgens, Strategy Coach

A good strategy is coherent and actionable. It is a set of choices about what to focus on and at the same time it excludes explicitly what not to do. It focuses on market and customer needs and uses available capabilities in the best possible ways. 

A good strategy focuses on customer centric outcomes. In other words it is not a plan of deliverables, but rather a choice of strategic outcomes that intend to offer a sharpened value for customers, through which a competitive advantage can be created.

Most importantly, in a complex world like ours, strategy is a hypothesis that needs to be validated continuously, which means a good strategy should be validated through measurable leading and lagging outcomes, with systems like OKR. 

Saumya Surendran Strategy

Saumya Surendran, Strategy Consultant, IBM

A good strategy is one that has a vision/north star and correctly resolves the diagnosed problem. It understands the issues of all stakeholders and has a good set of guidelines to execute it. It's one that learns from the past and takes best practises going forward. It takes into account the goals of the end user and works within the resources that exists.

Nikhil Maini Strategy

Nikhil Maini, Business Strategy Coach

To understand the constituents of a good strategy, first it’s important to understand what a strategy is not.

  1. A strategy is not a vision, which is longer-term oriented and clarifies purpose and direction while setting standards of desired excellence. Example: Amazon’s vision is “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
  2. A strategy is not a mission, which is designed to support the vision and define what we choose to do for our customers, employees and stakeholders. Example: Amazon’s mission is “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”
  3. A strategy also is not the value network — the relationships with suppliers, customers, employees, and investors through which a business creates economic value. Example: Amazon’s Inbound & Outbound Logistics, Operations, Marketing & Sales and Service framework.

A good strategy provides clarity through a simple wireframe that serves as basis on which people will make coherent decisions in the business and the things they should prioritise and de-prioritise to achieve desired goals.

Ergo, good strategies must give thought to the following areas:

  1. What business are we in or should we be in?
  2. Where do we compete?
  3. Who are our ideal target customers?
  4. What unique value proposition do we bring?
  5. What resources and capabilities do we use?
  6. How do we grow systematically?
  7. How do deploy the strategy in flexible and agile ways (perhaps OKRs?)?

Best business strategies

#1: Tesla Playing the long game

#2: HubSpot Creating an industry then dominating it

#3: PayPal Daring to challenge the status quo

Kenneth Paul Lewis Strategy

Kenneth Paul Lewis, Strategy & Leadership Consultant

A strategy is nothing more than a collection of overarching goals that the company will pursue. Consequently, this might include the following elements. 

1- Impact on customers/consumers 

2- Growth Levers 

3- Shareholder value

4- Stakeholder Support

5- Focus areas for innovation 

6- Competitive Advantage 

7- New ways of working 

Additionally, businesses should incorporate  "agility to pivot" into the strategy setting exercise.

Barry O'Reilly Strategy

Barry O’Reilly, Business Advisor, Keynote Speaker, and Author

A good strategy demands that you make a choice to move in one specific direction. When forming a strategy, the choice of one thing over another is simply unavoidable. A good strategy demands that you prioritise what’s most important and focus your resources there – trying to have it all will leave you struggling. Tough choices will often damage other areas of the business, and thus encounter strong opposition. However, you must have the constitution to overcome this and drive through the decision anyway.

Richard Russell Strategy

Richard Russell, Leadership Coach

A strategy contains a diagnosis of the current situation, an overall policy or approach to address the challenges and opportunities, and a set of coherent decisions that will implement this. Read Good Strategy/Bad Strategy for more. To make the strategy good, ensure that it delivers a unique value proposition that is tuned to your particular set of customer needs, and that you have a unique way to deliver that value proposition - if you're doing the same as others, in the same way as others, you'll end up competing to be "the best", and that's a sure-fire way to end up mediocre.

Sienam Lulla Strategy

Sienam Lulla, Strategy Coach

Differentiating between what you will choose to do vs. not do. Where is the focus, and what are the trade-offs? Increasing revenue or increasing profits is not a strategy; it is the by-product of a good strategy. A good strategy creates a moat around the business, fortifies from getting outcompeted, and is easy for everyone in the organisation to understand. It is not sloganeering, wishful thinking or fluffy business speak.

Michael Anyfantakis Strategy

Michael Anyfantakis, Digital Transformation Leader, Capital One

Clarity on target vision/destination outcomes and also on way to get there (even if this is based on hypothesis)

Tom Marks Strategy

Tom Marks, Transformation Leader, Hewlett Packard

Ambitious but not impossible, visionary but not obtuse, and simple to explain = buy in

Damien O'Connor Strategy

Damien O'Connor, Head of Delivery & Strategy

It should have the following 3 attributes:

1. Easily explainable to stakeholders, and team members

2. Results in increased revenue, reduced costs, or increased competitive advantage or some combination of the 3

3. Can actually be executed within a reasonable time horizon

Chris Combe Strategy

Chris Combe,  CDIO Group Functions Agile, UBS

Clarity and a set of heuristics that everyone can use to make decisions locally.

Areen Shahbari Strategy

Areen Shahbari, Business Strategy Instructor, Harvard University

Choosing to play in segments and markets where the company can win the competition and gain substantial market share. Making clear trade-offs and building resources and capabilities that create a sustainable competitive advantage and pass the VRIN test (they are valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable).

Ricardo Rodriguez STRATEGY

Ricardo Rodriguez, Strategy Director

Perfect understanding of ecosystem stakeholders.

Madalina Mincu Strategy

Madalina Mincu, Strategy Coach

A great strategy is in line with the values and mission of the company. It focuses on mid-term and long-term goals, which should be realistic and specific.

Craig Wood Strategy

Craig Wood, Strategy Consultant




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