Developing Strategy is Fun. Implementing It Is Work.

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I’ve said a lot, in print, that good business planning is 9 parts implementation for every 1 part strategy. I really like how well that fits with Bob Sutton’s post Strategy Is For Amateurs, Logistics Are For Professionals on his blog yesterday. He writes:

My colleague Jeff Pfeffer and I have argued for years that implementation, not strategy, is what usually separates winners from losers in most industries, and generally explains the difference between success and failure in most organizational change efforts, sales campaigns and so on.

Bob has a lot of good stuff in that one short post. Consider this one:

It could be that strategy is very important to the success of firms, but it does not explain differences among firms in an industry because following the right strategy is required to stay alive and that executing strategy explains the differences in performance among living firms.

SWOTSo you could say this is a matter of survivor bias; we only here about the winners, which, presumably, had effective strategy. The losers don’t have a voice. That’s an interesting thought.

But I also think most good business strategies are relatively obvious, particularly if you look at entrepreneurship and small business. Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Look at how your company is different. Look at how you match that difference with what you offer, and to whom you offer it. And then bear down, get realistic, and focus on your keys to success, and what you can actually do well. Presto, business strategy.

And how about this one:

Better to have a mediocre long-term strategy consistently applied for years than a series of brilliant but contradictory strategies that never last long enough to matter. (Sorry, quoting myself again here; couldn’t resist.)

Bob and his colleage Jeff Pfeffer are onto something: developing creative new innovative strategy is fun, but most good strategies are sort of boring, particularly when you keep to them over the long term. Implementing strategy is work.

7 Comments ▼

Tim Berry


Tim Berry Tim is Founder and President of Palo Alto Software, Founder of bPlans, Co-Founder of Borland International, Stanford MBA, and co-founder of Have Presence. He is the author of several books and thousands of articles on business planning, small business, social media and startup business.

7 Reactions

  1. So true…so true. Strategy sessions were always my favorite, but actually implementing was always what I hated to take part in lol. I guess that’s why it took a couple years to make a successful business. I guess you learn one way or another.

  2. Implementation is where most businesses sink or swim and it is work (the four-letter word variety). Thanks for speaking some truth Tim.

  3. Tim,

    Thank your thoughtful post. Could it help to implement a strategy by using a business and marketing plan? I will soon talk with you about this matter…

  4. There has long been a dichotomy between strategic planning, implementation and measurement of performance. The ideal solution is to have an integrated solution that enables some level of integration between these factors.

    I believe that my model called stakeholder focused performance management (SFPM) for short offers an excellent framework on which organizations can hang their strategic plans, and integrate performance management, process management etc.

    There is a limited explanation at http://www.harmonyreconsulting.com, but I am interested in working with other practitioners to explain and roll this out…. contact me if you would like more information.

    Maybe this can make the implementation fun – by providing a suitable framework…..

  5. hello Tim

    “developing creative new innovative strategy is fun, but most good strategies are sort of boring, particularly when you keep to them over the long term. Implementing strategy is work.”
    I would say this:
    a good strategy is the one that can change in time, adapt to the evolving environment in politics, culture, nature, social movements. The best plan is the one that excites you and brings you money.
    I cannot think of a “good” strategy that is boring. Something is wrong in this statement.

    Perhaps…plan can becoming boring, if the plan is more important that the goal.

    Implementation… it is a magical word. like in sports- you can never win if you do not train every single day. And the winners are the most determined, and the comfort zones’ destroyers :)

    Thank you
    have a great day!
    Martyna

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