magazine | March 9, 2017
What Sets Top Growth Executives Apart?
It’s no coincidence growth executives in the top 22 percent of companies always make their number in a predictable, hassle-free way. They accomplish this by working on strategy and execution in unison.
Executives who focus only on strategy often suffer from periodic short-term revenue misses. They sound good but they don’t produce. Other executives concentrate on execution and suffer from periodic long-term revenue misses. They go from hero to zero quickly.
Both cases put your revenue number at risk by focusing too heavily on either strategy or execution. Boards and shareholders become frustrated, and question whether you can consistently make your number. Pretty soon you’re looking for a new job.
What sets top growth executives apart? They emphasize the importance of making a crisp distinction between strategy and tactics. Simply put, strategy involves doing the right things; tactics involve doing things right. And they align their corporate, product, marketing, and sales functions accordingly.
For example, determining whether your company’s competitive advantage is price, product, or customer experience is a strategic decision. The answer should guide your investments in time, money, and resources. In turn, your sales process, the tactics you execute, will be driven by different requirements and capabilities needed to achieve each different competitive objective: price, product, or customer experience.
Assessing Potential Outcomes
A masterful blend of strategy and execution is the difference between consistently making or missing your number. The strategy-tactics matrix is a tool for assessing your company across four quadrants to determine four potential outcomes: thrive, survive, die slowly, die quickly.
1. You will thrive. A brilliant plan that is executed brilliantly results in remarkable outcomes. Think of Apple, Amazon.com, or Southwest Airlines. The leadership, their employees, and in many cases their customers have a high degree of clarity about those companies’ strategies. As a result, their product, marketing, and sales functions are aligned to execute tactics effectively in support of those clear strategies.
2. You will survive. A brilliant plan that is executed poorly results in survival, but you will not thrive and reach your potential. Think of Tesla or Starbucks. They have well-defined strategies, but inefficient tactics to execute them. As Tesla and Starbucks drive their tactics more efficiently, it is certainly possible for them to thrive.
3. You will die slowly. A poor plan that is executed poorly results in a slow death. Think of BlackBerry or Sears. Both still exist, but are shells of what they once were. Their strategies are ineffective and the tactics in place to execute against those strategies are inefficient. Even if BlackBerry or Sears were to suddenly revamp their strategies, they also would need to execute tactics much more effectively to thrive.
4. You will die quickly. A poor plan that is executed brilliantly results in a quick death. Think of Song Airlines or Ted Airlines. Do you remember them? Probably not. Ted, United’s low-cost airline alternative, was intended to compete with Southwest. Song was Delta’s version. In both cases the fundamental strategy was flawed but the implementation of each strategy was quite efficient. Neither was successful and both died very quickly.
Achieving Clarity and Alignment
To move from one quadrant in the strategy-tactics matrix to another, you must work on the two simultaneously and bring both into alignment throughout your organization. Once everyone understands the clear distinction between strategy and tactics, you can quickly test which quadrant characterizes your company, business unit, division, department, or team.
Ask your functional leaders of product, marketing, and sales to describe the difference between a strategy and a tactic. Have them give you an example to illustrate their thought process. Have them plot your company, and then have them position their team in a quadrant on the matrix.
The answers you receive will tell you how much work you have ahead to drive clarity and alignment in your business. Those answers will also indicate how likely you are to hit your number in 2017.
Would you like help striking the balance between strategy and execution? For your next executive offsite, bring your team to come see us in Dallas at The Studio, SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art executive briefing center. A visit to The Studio typically results in getting three months of work done in three days. The immersive sessions accelerate everything, dramatically reducing the time it takes to diagnose a problem, develop a solution, and create an implementation plan.