Strategic Thinking vs. Execution Planning

It’s time to break apart a 50-year-old business tradition – strategic planning – and think about it in terms of two distinct activities: strategic thinking and execution planning.

Strategic Thinking

The fundamental strategy of a company isn’t something that can be decided through the consensus of a committee meeting offsite for a couple days. It’s a highly iterative process involving a few senior leaders intensely engaged with the market through regular customer and frontline employee interaction who carve out an hour or two each week to talk about a few critical strategic questions.

Execution Planning

While the strategic thinking team is doing its iterative work, everyone else in the company needs to focus on the most important priorities that will move the company forward the next 3 to 12 months.

The senior team establishes a handful of priorities for the coming year, and then works with their middle managers to do the same for their respective departments or divisions. These priorities are further broken down into specific quarterly, monthly, weekly priorities that are further cascaded down to the frontline employees. Thus, everyone in the company is essentially “on the same page,” driving execution planning.