I recently read an interesting article where two academics were debating the difference between strategy and execution. One academic, Roger Martin, who is rated #3 on the Thinkers50 list, argues this main point:

“I think of strategy as plotting the course, execution as steering the ship.”

I often talk about setting direction in Bee Ready For Change workshop. One needs to know where one is going for effective change to happen. Also, one needs to know that the future or place we are attempting to go is better than the present or the place where we are now. I ask participants in Bee Ready For Change workshop to complete a Plan Bee or action plan. In this Plan I ask the groups to draw their strategy. This enables them to see and feel the change.

What I am really asking them to do is to draw how they will execute their thoughts into actions. To show their colleagues and I that they understand where they are going and how they will steer their ship to arrive at their destination.

I often tell people they need to ACT – Action Changes Things. I posit that strategy and execution are all about taking action. I really drill the point home by advising the participants that Bee Ready For Change workshop is a workshop about ACTION.

So back to Roger Martin’s quote on strategy and execution. If you are steering a ship you will plot your course and map it out. You will choose a path that will get you from A to B in what you believe is the most effective and efficient route, given your vessel, crew, weather conditions, tides, and supplies. You will not really know until you are on your way if the weather conditions will be as forecast or not. You plan, after weighing up the conditions etc. and set off from . You effectively begin “executing” your “strategy.”  As sometimes happens, the wind can change unexpectedly and dramatically to gale force 6 or 7. Now you must rethink your “strategy.”  In you are now strategizingor executing as you rethink and replot your course?

Strategy and execution are all about taking action. Change requires action. That is, strategizing and executing as we navigate the unknown to do our best as leaders to implement the necessary changes to achieve the desired results.

As Morris Chang CEO od TSMC quoted:

“Without , execution is aimless.

Without execution, is useless”.

Are you strategizing and executing for effective change?

Paul Rigby master facilitator of Bee Ready For Change and Bee Engaged workshops.

Co-author of The Bee Book