CEOs Should Stop Thinking that Execution is Somebody Else’s Job; It Is Theirs
by Roger L. Martin
The common perception is that strategy is done at the top of the org chart, and execution is done below. It is exactly the opposite. First, consider that the act of “execution” is remarkably similar to the act of strategy: both are about making a series of choices about what to do and what not to do, about where to play and how to win. If a choice becomes untenable downstream, then all the upstream choices must be reconsidered. But if there is a difference between strategy and execution, it’s this: execution is the act of setting up that series of choice cascades, identifying the manager responsible for the choices in each cascade, and following up to ensure that they make the choices for which they are responsible. In other words, strategy is the act of making choices about “where to play” and “how to win” across the various levels and parts of the organization. Execution is the act of parsing out responsibility for those choices, making sure people actually choose (instead of waffling around in indecision). That means that everyone is responsible for strategy, but that responsibility for execution rests at the top.