Don't Confuse Execution with Tactics

by Patrick Lefler

Don't Confuse Execution with TacticsLarry Bossidy and Ram Charan are the authors of one of the best books on execution written over the past twenty-five years – Execution, The discipline of getting things done. One of the major takeaways of the book is that while tactics are central to execution, execution is not tactics – it much more strategic. The authors describe execution as a discipline (hence the title) that is integral to strategy.

“People think of execution as the tactical side of business. That’s the first big mistake. Tactics are central to execution, but execution is not tactics. Execution is fundamental to strategy and has to shape it. No worthwhile strategy can be planned without taking into account the organization’s ability to execute it. If you’re talking about the smaller specifics of getting things done, call the process implementation, or sweating the details, or whatever you want to. But don’t confuse execution with tactics.

Execution is the systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability. It includes making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization’s capabilities, linking strategy to operations and the people who are going to implement the strategy, synchronizing those people and their various disciplines, and linking rewards with outcomes. It also includes mechanisms for changing assumptions as the environment changes and upgrading the company’s capabilities to meet the challenges of an ambitious strategy.

In its most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it.”

The proper execution of any strategy is perhaps the most difficult piece of the puzzle. And the firms that get it right also seem (coincidentally) to be the ones where growth outpaces their competitors and innovation flourishes. Again, it’s not so much about the quantity of the ideas as it is about the quality of the execution.

Here’s the takeaway: Execution is more than just getting things done; rather it’s the systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it.

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Patrick LeflerPatrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group – a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.

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