Does Strategy Matter?

I've always been a fan of business strategy. Three weeks into running my own business though, I am beginning to think that strategy doesn't matter. Almost daily I am faced with a strategic decision, one that I can't find a good answer to no matter how much time I spend thinking about it. Sometimes I just have to do something, whether it is right or wrong. So far, it all seems to be turning out right. This got me to thinking – does it really matter what my strategy is as long as I execute it well? Maybe execution is the key to successful business operation.

College basketball is my favorite sport (Go Wildcats!) and it is a game filled with strategy. Some teams play a run-and-gun high scoring offensive game, while others pack it in and focus on tough half-court defense. Which is the better strategy? It doesn't matter. What matters is who executes their strategy better. Often you will hear announcers say before a game that whichever team dictates the tempo, or can force the other team to play their way, will win. It is usually true. Following this line of thought, I have started to believe that strategy isn't near as important as I once thought it was.

Hold on. Back up. I have missed one thing. Thinking about strategy is still important. Why? Because thinking about strategy is what leads to good execution. Ability to execute is what should dictate your strategy. That means you look at the marketplace, you look at your team, and instead of asking which strategy is best in some sort of ideal abstract way, you decide which one you can execute best. Maybe I'm missing it again. It does matter which strategy you pick because you need to pick the one you can execute well.

What do I make of all this? The common model of mission->strategy->tactics->execution is wrong. These are all important, but there really is no hierarchy where one level dictates what to do at the other levels. Strategy and Execution are tied together. They cannot be separated. A change in one demands a change in the other. So rather than worrying about whether or not a strategy is correct, when faced with several good alternatives just pick one and focus on the execution. If you pick a strategy identical to a competitor, but execute better, your company will be the one that is rewarded.