Strategy vs Operational Leadership

By Bruce Wade

We are often conflicted by where in a business to place emphasis: Strategy or Operation. Do we plan to get better, or do we do things to get better? Where does one start to make a success?

We use terms such as Failing to plan is planning to Fail, but Failing to Execute is Execution.

Where is the balance found between these two critically important functions within an organisation? How can we find the balance?

The answer lies in the allocation of tasks and not in balance. These two functions cannot be taken on by a single person or team, you cannot play planner and operational manager at the same desk.

Developing a strategy that is comprehensive, forward-thinking and risk-averse is a full-time job. It requires learning from the past, looking into the future and mapping out the best path forward for today towards the desired destination.

Operational execution requires management skills, policy development, procedure drafting and measurement. It is a full-time, full-brain job.

Trying to fit both functions into a single brain or even a single team is never going to work. No matter how multi-tasked you may feel at one time, it will begin to tear you apart and something will have to give.

The best organisational structures for sustainability will need a diverse leadership with separate core functions, leaders and teams: one to develop the strategies and another to implement the plans operationally.

Three simple steps to take:

  1. Allocate the best person to be the Visionary and strategy developer
  2. Allocate the best person to be the operational leader and implementor
  3. Hire a consulting firm that can speak into both camps for guidance and accountability
  4. (Bonus step) Set up constant conversations between both teams for collaboration, not competition

Get this right and sustainability starts to become a reality.