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Do you really want to execute your strategy?

Next time you use the phrase 'strategy execution' you might like to reconsider.

"If only we could be better at strategy execution". It's a common catch-cry, particularly within large, complex organisations.

As few as 9% of organisations rate themselves as being excellent at delivering initiatives that target strategic results (1). 88% of C-suite executives see implementation of strategy as being 'essential' or 'very important' and yet 68% say it's something their organisation finds it difficult to do (2).

It seems to me there's a certain irony in our use of the word execute when talking about business strategy. Most dictionaries assign two core meanings.

  1. To carry out a plan of action

  2. To put to death

While many organisations intend to execute strategy in the context of the first definition, the outcome is frequently more consistent with the second. Indeed, if we follow this line of thinking a little further, it also appears a little odd that we call the people developing and leading the strategy - execut(e)ives. I'm not sure how well the words execution and leadership go together.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that the challenges of strategy implementation encountered by so many organisations come down to the mere use of a single word. However, I do wonder if we focused less on 'strategy execution' and more on 'customer-value creation' whether we'd be any better off.

Just a thought.


  1. PMI Pulse of The Profession (February 2014) The High Cost of Low Performance - 2014, Newtown Square, PA USA: Project Management Institute

  2. Economist Intelligence Unit (2013) Why Good Strategies Fail - A wake-up call for the C-Suite. London, The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited.

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About the author:

Kate Christiansen is an author, business leader and passionate change-advocate who's spent twenty years adapting organisations to major strategic change. Her writing aims to empower leaders by fostering insights, sharing ideas and providing practical strategies to succeed in an ever-changing world. Kate's latest book 'The Thrive Cycle: Unlock The Adaptive Organisation Within' will be released in 2016.


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