Strategy vs. Implementation: Which One Creates Productive Growth?

Kristine BryantBusiness InsightsLeave a Comment

You can have world-class implementation but without a strategy, how do you know it’s moving your company toward productive growth?

First, let’s define productive growth by talking about what it’s not. I have seen numerous companies that have increased revenue without growing profitability, creating a long-term, sustainable business model, or even understanding the ramifications of development in their current configuration. This is not productive growth and could potentially lead to a plateau in your business or even a dead end.

What productive growth looks like in a company is identifying the goals in your business plan and moving toward them – which hopefully includes things like an increase in revenue and/or profitability, customer satisfaction, and a healthy corporate culture.

Now, back to the real question: strategy vs. implementation. Is it possible to implement successfully without a strategy? Maybe. But how do you measure success without a goal-oriented plan? I would argue that even lackluster implementation of a dynamic strategy can move organizations toward productive growth. But without a plan of action, you are moving about aimlessly.

A good strategy provides the roadmap for your corporation. It sets the direction and the key milestones so everyone can be operating toward the same goals. Strategy defines objectives, giving departments and team members motivation, knowing that their contributions are critical components of the company’s success.

Think of implementation alone like running on a hamster wheel. You can get really good at it; you can run really, really fast. But, in the end… what progress was made? Did you count your laps and finally reach a goal? Without the metrics and milestones of a strategy, implementation can lead a company in a direction that is unreliable and unsustainable.

Now imagine a used car dealership marketing campaign that was wildly successful. Every single car on the lot was purchased at a huge discount. All of the inventory was sold – Hooray! Right? But what if, in the end, the used car lot owner lost money on every single transaction and went bankrupt. Was the marketing a positive investment, merely because it generated cash flow and reduced inventory? Could a strategic plan – maybe provide discounts only on certain models – have resulted in a better outcome? What analysis would have to be done to understand which car models would be the most effective to discount? Implementation should simply complement the strategy.

Focus on routinely evaluating and modifying your strategy. This is where success is. Implementation can improve along the way, but if your focus shifts out of this order, even outstanding execution can pull a company off course.

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