Strategy is important in business, but it only gets you part of the way there. The real key to your success is not just how well you form a strategy, but how well you act on it. Consider a few examples, from beyond the business world, of how just knowing what to do isn’t enough.
Students who participate in study abroad programs in foreign countries are often blindsided by how little they understand of the local language when they arrive, even if they have been successfully studying it for several years. They can certainly communicate better than if they had not studied the language, but there is a certain part of the language acquisition process, the part where you participate in two-way conversations at normal conversational speed, that you can only learn by doing. To give an even more extreme example, the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is about a man who spends the entire poem strategizing about what to say to a woman he admires. Through the whole poem, he strategizes, but he never executes his strategy, and he ends up just as lonely as he started.
In business, it is important to make plans, but do not waste time planning down to the last detail. Spend most of your time executing your plans. Actually trying your plans out will give you insights on how to modify them. If you are writing a book or building a shed, then engineering your plans down to the last detail and sticking to them is great, but not in business dealings, where everything changes faster than you can plan for it.
So how do you make the transition from just being good at strategy to being good at executing your strategy? Well, successful execution of business strategies requires a few things.
1) Understand the Strategy
If it is your strategy, that means making an airtight strategy. If it is someone else’s strategy, that means truly understanding what they want you to do before you set about doing it.
2) Attention to Detail
Even the best strategy will not pan out well if you are careless in your execution of it. It is a good idea to keep detailed notes and records of what you and others do and say while you are executing a plan. This will also help you decide how to modify the strategy as needed.
3) Excellent Communication
Assumptions and misunderstandings can doom even the best business strategy. There is a reason that, in busy restaurant kitchens, cooks say “yes, chef” to the head chef when he asks them to do something. That way he knows whether it is being done or whether to repeat his instructions. If you are supervising others in the execution of a strategy, don’t be tougher and don’t be more lenient; be more specific.
4) Good Training
If you are managing a team of people who are executing a strategy, make sure they have been well trained in the skills they will need before the project begins.
5) Hard Work
This is the most important part of executing a business project. You need initiative, determination, and stamina at every step of the process.
It is important to follow up with all members of your team at every stage of the process. As a project leader, you are responsible for the completion of all tasks, even when you have delegated them to someone else. If you do not constantly follow up with your team, it leads to disorder and inefficiency.