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Self-Inflicted Wounds to Profits - Part 2: Strategic Execution Sabotage

Jun 08, 2020

Ever see one of those pirate movies where they engage the enemy on the high seas, cannons aflame, smoke and thunder all around, and explosion tearing in the ships’ hulls? Of course you have. Now, have you ever seen one of those episodes where the captain runs below deck to start cleaning the cannons, organizing the ammunition, swabbing the deck?


Me neither.
Unless we’re looking at you.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but after training 1,000’s of CEOs annually, and working with dozens of corporations internally, a very common pattern we expose is how the CEO and their executives are opening 80 to 100% of their time below deck.

Yes, we call it “getting sucked into operations.”

One of the things we seek to detect in Distraction From Operations: The beast of operations sucks in many executives, most admitting that they spend 80 to 100% there. The reaction to tactical urgencies never gives strategy a chance. The struggle to focus executives on strategy is nothing new. A 700-year-old samurai manuscript, published in the book The Code of the Executive, suggests businesses have had this problem for a very long time. The focus on the immediate eats the possibility of the future. The fix? Stop Getting Sucked Into Operations! Weak teams suck their leaders into operational urgencies. No team can implement a strategic plan without strength and unity. Start monitoring where management is spending its time.

No Compelling Saga

For thousands of years the masses were aligned to focused execution with a story of passion and focus. But many executives are taught to avoid the drama, not use it. This is why the many are outrun by the few. Passion is profit. So, make sure you craft a Compelling Saga: Has the winning strategy been captured in a language that inspires passion for a strategic result?

  1. Confusing Strategy with Tactics: Does your plan show how to out-intuit the moves of your enemy? Does it clearly indicate how you will win?

  2. Limited scope: Missed M&A opportunities. 


Execution Agility: Executives must do their utmost to understand the complexities necessary to implement strategy successfully. This requires leadership, intuition, focus, and drive. Mistakes here include:

  1. No Course-Correction: Many see strategy as a plan, not a way of thinking and moving. No plan survives its impact with reality, so adjustments and adaptations are critical as the real world emerges. Formal planning is only a small part of the journey. Execution without adaptation is a recipe for failure.

  2. Weak Leadership: A weak management team handicaps strategic execution tremendously. They not only are unable to contribute to a strategic discussion, they are unable to make the critical decisions and take the new actions necessary for implementation. In an accountability-vacuum everyone wonders why nothing is getting done. This is typically due to a lack of bravery and an overabundance of arrogance. Address the by evaluating and reinforcing your leadership. Build a strong team and maintain their strategic focus. Ineffectual leaders breed weak teams. Cowardice, arrogance, and inexperience should be avoided.

  3. Poor Capital alignment: Do you have the capital strategy to implement this strategy

  4. Slow Adaptation: Have you incorporated course-correction into your execution framework?

  5. Missing Recon: How can you adapt if you don’t have a recon campaign to detect market and enemy changes? 



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