Of course, while that is a highly held belief of HR departments and other strategy people what we find in real life is it usually is the execution portion of the business that makes or breaks the company. As Adrian rightly points out: does anyone believe HP needs different strategies or innovation? No. It is a company which just executes very poorly. While the "big 3" were trying to innovate and develop high level strategies (Remember Jacque Nassar at Ford rolling up junk yards under the Greenleaf subsidiary - Ultimately a failure.) Toyota was focusing on execution and doing it really well.
Second, more and more it is execution which differentiates companies. Does the product sold at Wal-Mart really differ that much from Target or J.C. Penny? They are buying from the same vendors and even when they have an "exclusive" it usually is a SKU number change versus a true differentiation. So, what makes the experience different between these stores for the consumer? Execution is what makes it different. Items such as:
- Low Cost
- Easy in and out
- Customer Service
- Web availability
These are all execution actions and they truly differentiate these companies (I will leave it to the reader to determine which does it best / worst).
To further the study of this topic, I highly recommend everyone read: "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done" by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. This book really talks about the importance of elevating the discipline of "getting things done" to a very high level - at least to a level equal to strategy and innovation. Remember, innovation is not always just new products but if you can innovate on ways to execute tasks that could reap huge rewards (Think about all the innovation of basic processes like "checking out" which makes an Apple store such a great place to shop) you may find huge competitive advantage.
Here is how Bossidy and Charan define Execution:
- The missing link
- The main reason companies fall short of their promises
- The gap between what a company's leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organizations to deliver it.
- Not simply tactics, but a system of getting things done through questioning, analysis, and follow-through. A discipline for meshing strategy with reality, aligning people with goals and achieving results promised.
- A central part of a company's strategy and its goals and the major job of any leader in business
- A discipline requiring a comprehensive understanding of a business, its people and its environment.
- The way to link the three core processes of any business - the people process, the strategy and the operating plan together to get things done on time.
I highly recommend the book and you can buy it here: