Executing Strategy: Some Propositions

Operations is about doing things right. Strategy is about doing the right things


1. The business environment is unpredictable and uncertain, and so are we. We would like to be able to make perfect plans, have people do exactly what we want, and be certain that their actions will achieve the outcomes we desire. We can do none of those things – there are gaps between plans, actions and outcomes.

2. Our instinctive reaction to the knowledge gap is to seek more information. We confuse understanding with information.

3. Our instinctive reaction to the alignment gap it to issue more specific instructions. We confuse clarity with detail.

4. Our instinctive reaction to the effects gap is to impose tighter controls. We confuse outcomes with metrics.

5. These reactions do not only fail to solve the problem, they make it worse. They add cost, paralyse decision-making and demoralises people. The organisation becomes a slow, expensive robot.

6. To close the gaps we should change our mindset to expect the unexpected and should not plan beyond the circumstances we can foresee.

7. Within the constraints of our limited knowledge we should strive to identify the essentials of a situation and make choices about what it is most important to achieve.

8. To allow people to take effective action, we must make sure they understand what they are to achieve and why.

The core task of executives is to master and simplify complexity


9. They should then explain what they are going to do as a result, define the implied tasks, and check back with us. Communication is a loop. We should replace quantity with quality.

10. They should then assign the tasks they have defined to individuals who are accountable for achieving them, and specify boundaries within which they are free to act.

11. Everyone must have the skills and resources to do what is needed and the space to take independent decisions and actions when the unexpected occurs, as it will.

12. As the situation changes, everyone should be expected to adapt their actions according to their best judgement in order to achieve the intended outcomes.