Lessons Learned

What is Strategy Execution?

Whenever someone asks what I do, I cringe as the words “strategy execution consultant” or “strategy deployment consultant” come out of my mouth. It’s like I want people to roll their eyes at me.

So, what is it?

Picture this. You’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company – a very large company with tens of thousands of employees. Some have a college degree – some do not. Some are managers – some are not. Some sit behind a desk, some sit behind a steering wheel, and some do not sit. You have large supply and distribution chains, and 30% of your workforce are in a Union.

Got that mental image? Cool.

Now, you have been having meetings with top MBAs from top schools. You have meetings with your cabinet of advisers. You read articles from experts around the globe. From this swirl of meetings and discussions, it becomes apparent: the marketplace forces of change are coming, and your company is smack dab in the middle of the tornado’s path. It’s clear that if your company doesn’t change, you and your 50,000 employees will be out of a job.

So you turn back to your army of consultants, MBAs, advisers, and PhDs and they brilliantly come up with a plan – a new strategy that will get your company out of the tornado’s path and on the road to continued growth and success. You have a bunch of associates build a PowerPoint and write a speech for you and you’re ready to announce the company’s new 10-year strategy. Yes, it will be tough. Yes, there will be change. No, you will not get a raise. But, yes this will help us all in the long run.

It’s all logical. It’s all sensible. There is no way the 50,000 employees are going to disagree with the plan…right?

If you said “Right,” well, you’re wrong.

Your 50,000 employees are not behind the change because, quite simply, they don’t understand why they need to change.

But…but…but…I just laid out all of the facts on the 100 page PowerPoint deck for them! It’s all there!

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of one of the employees: a union-member truck driver.

You’re a truck driver. You drive hundreds of miles a week. You sleep on the road. The questions that go on in your mind are something along the lines of the following:

  • “I can’t see my family for 10 days.”
  • “Bill got laid off…will I get laid off too?”
  • “What’s for dinner?”
  • “What should I get Suzy for her birthday?”

The last thing on your mind is:

  • “What are the strategic implications of the globalization of the workforce, the war for talent, and the cost of petroleum gas on our company’s supply chain?”

Even if the above was on your mind, you don’t have an army of consultants, MBAs, and PhDs to help you grasp and discuss it. You haven’t had the chance to come to your own conclusions. You’re too busy doing your job.

And therein lies the problem for you, the CEO.

You have a good strategy. But 50,000 other people don’t agree with you.

So what is strategy execution?

Strategy execution is getting 50,000 people to agree with you. The last way to do that is give them a 100 page PowerPoint.

So how do you get 50,000 people to agree with you?

There are many ways you can do this. You can present them with information and a forum to discuss. You can show an emotionally engaging video that tells the story, not the numbers. You can ask them what they think. You can bring them into the discussion.

You give them the same opportunity to discover the need to change that you had.

Jim Haudan, Root, Inc.’s Founder and CEO has a quote:

“Strategy without execution is meaningless. Execution without engagement is impossible.”

So one more time. What is strategy execution?

It’s getting people engaged in your company and strategy. It’s carrying out strategy through people, not despite them.


Steven Choi works at Root, Inc. A Strategy Execution Firm. He helps 50,000 employees agree with their CEO.

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