Execution – The Ugly Duckling

Posted by Bo Pedersen
on March 13, 2019

Don’t treat Execution like the Ugly Duckling. It’s really a beautiful swan that can save both your Purpose and Strategy from languishing in misunderstood and much ignored irrelevance.

The Enterprise Value Chain

According to HBR, the enterprise value chain consists of 5 distinct components:

  • Purpose, supported by
    • Strategy, supported by
      • Capabilities, supported by
        • Resources, supported by
          • Management

Let’s¬†simplify:

  • Purpose, supported by
    • Strategy, supported by
      • Execution

We should give each of these equal attention. Purpose without Execution is nothing. Execution without Strategy is just throwing mud at the wall. We need all three.

Execution – The Ugly Duckling

Let Google it and see if they receive equal attention.

  • Purpose (3,200,000,000 results)
    • Strategy¬†(2,790,000,000 results)
      • Execution (846,000,000 results)

OMG.

Although, it kind of makes sense. When was the last time anyone invited you to an ‘Execution Meeting’? You’d probably feel like you should check with HR or your lawyer before attending.

Purpose wants to change the world!

Strategy wants to demonstrate how clever it is.

Execution is the poor, ugly duckling, boring and mundane by comparison to attractive Purpose and clever Strategy.

Purpose & Strategy do have problems

But despite their good looks and charm, Purpose and Strategy both have very serious problems.

Problem #1 Nobody knows them. Sometimes Purpose is just not there, other times its hidden behind executive doors, or poorly worded mission statements.

Problem #2¬†Nobody understands them. ‘We will engage inclusively with stakeholders across our opportunity space to develop proactive relationships through collaborative, interactive media for optimum value creation”. Strategy is not fluent in plain speaking and is often misunderstood.

So Purpose and Strategy are highly attractive, but often locked away in ivory towers, and speaking mostly gibberish.

Execution 2.0

‘You don’t tell me what to do, I tell me what to do!’

Hope is out there. Sometime in the 1970s at Intel, led by Andy Grove and documented more recently by John Doerr, an idea evolved to empower and inspire people to take massive action in support of hugely ambitious goals.

This initial idea morphed into a global phenomenon called Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs. 

One of the reasons OKRs have been so successful, and have gained mainstream following in the past years is that OKRs are an excellent way to unite Purpose, Strategy, and Execution.

And finally, Execution, the Ugly Duckling, has transformed into a beautiful swan.

OKRs enable Execution to support Strategy and Purpose at all times. With OKRs, Purpose and Strategy are liberated from the confines of the boardroom and now live freely and transparently among the people.

The list of OKRs benefits is long – we hear the following repeated often:

  1. Focus. Clear company goals define what matters most. Goals are communicated widely and regularly.
  2. Alignment. Employees and teams define objectives which support company goals. Objectives are measured using quantitative key results. 
  3. Transparency. Goals, objectives and key results are shared transparently across the organization. No silos, and no politics. 
  4. Engagement. Employees are empowered and enabled to define how they can contribute. As a result they are motivated and deliver their best work. 

Don’t treat Execution like the Ugly Duckling. It’s really a beautiful swan that can save both your Purpose and Strategy from languishing in misunderstood and much ignored irrelevance.