execute strategy

Vision or Nightmare: Three Ways Execute Your Strategic Plan

“Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare.”

This Japanese proverb captures the business leader’s challenge: how to achieve results from strategy and gain more from the process than a plan in a binder.

If your guiding ideas are stranded or devolving into an operational nightmare, here are three ways to move from vision to action.

Use a Metaphor

Capture your vision and pass it on to your team with a metaphor that creates a memorable image.

One of the most effective descriptions of a guiding vision I’ve heard is this simple and thought-provoking statement from Farmobile CEO Jason Tatge: “Farmobile is where big data meets the tractor.” Another example comes from the owner of a high-end design firm, who motivated her team with the description: “We’re the Tiffany of client service.”



According to a 2016 survey by Bridges Consultancy Group, 76 percent of successful companies focus on a limited number of strategic initiatives to reach their objectives. A big vision can be daunting to execute, and prioritizing reduces the risk of execution nightmares.

Choose one or two strategic initiatives that have the highest impact on business success. One way to develop a priority ranking is to analyze each initiative by three criteria:

  • What results do we want to achieve?
  • What impact will achieving these results have on the business?
  • What activities can we execute over the next six to 12 months that will lead to these results?


Assign Authority and Accountability

Achieving results is in the hands of those performing the work. If you want your team to bring it, let them own their activities and outcomes.

As Tom Peters observed in “A Passion for Excellence,” “None of us washes our rental cars. There’s no ownership.” Empower your team to set their own goals and identify the activities will achieve specific results. Questions for identifying these activities can include:

  • What measurable results must we achieve monthly?
  • What functional areas of the business are involved in achieving these results?
  • What needs to done weekly/monthly by each function in order to perform these activities?
  • How much time will these activities take on a weekly/monthly basis?
  • What are the costs associated with performing these activities, and what resources do we need?


Executing on a strategy is a dynamic process that is guided by the plan, not constrained by it. Give yourself and your team permission to adjust, adapt and explore options as you implement, and you’ll move from vision to action to results.