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Strategy vs implementation

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

It’s a question as old as the hills and often polarising as people tend to be firmly in one camp or another. I’ve been lucky enough to be both a strategy consultant and also a Lean Six-Sigma practitioner in a former life so I hope I can offer a balanced view.

If we reduce the arguments on both side to their very essence they are:

For Team Strategy: “You can have the best implementation, but it’s pointless if you are going in the wrong direction”. An example would be executing perfectly on a product strategy for pagers in 2021. Doesn’t matter how well the plan is implemented, you’re on to a loser.

For Team Implementation: “You can have the perfect strategy, but if you can execute on it, you’ve got nothing (apart from a nice PowerPoint deck).” An example would be … most businesses! It’s really hard to deliver on a strategy in reality and most businesses have an annual strategy creation ritual, after which the strategy is popped into a drawer and forgotten about until next year.

Clearly both are important and the answer comes down to balance.

At Fordhouse we have a bias to action so we value implementation over strategy if you can quickly iterate and adjust as you execute, which gives you a flexible strategy that has a feedback loop.

To that end we spend a good deal of time on strategy, but we don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Delivering a good strategy is better than not delivering because you are too busy trying to create the perfect strategy.

“In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement it like a hell.” Jack Welch


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