I enjoy watching football and I naturally connect typically non-business things in life to business (Game of Thrones, sports, the ocean…).
As I watched Peyton Manning’s Broncos systematically destroy Chip Kelly’s Eagles yesterday, some ideas I have been mulling related to success came to mind. These thoughts involve the relationship between strategy and execution. Specifically, what mix of the two yields the greatest level of success? Naturally, perfect strategy in conjunction with perfect execution maximize the chances for success. However, it seems that in the real world these two things are somewhat exclusive due to opportunity costs and the way people and institutions are.
To go back to the game yesterday, Chip Kelly (Eagles coach) is universally considered a strategic genius, whose teams have proven to be nearly unstoppable when clicking. On the other hand, the offenses that Peyton Manning (Broncos quarterback) has operated throughout his career are always considered basic, standard and simple. In spite of superior strategy, the Eagles were embarrassed on the field by the simple plans of the Broncos. While Peyton lacks genius strategy, he absolutely commands excellence in execution, which was on full display yesterday. Simple plays well executed led to 52 points, while ingenious plays poorly executed led to 20 points.
I developed the following tool to assist my accountant brain in displaying this theory (I communicate best in spreadsheet).
Success via Strategy and Execution Tool
> Add the respective level of Strategy and Execution for each scenario
> The higher number represents the greater chance of success
> Zero represents “normal”, +1 and greater is above average
Most people, teams, businesses, products and services do not have both great strategy and great execution from inception. Occasionally, a truly amazing business or team will become great on both fronts (think Bill Walsh’s 49ers or Steve Jobs’ Apple). However, many great companies and teams are not great on both. In these cases, more often than not the ones who choose to execute “great” on an “adequate” strategy win. I could give tons of examples that reinforce this point, but I will spare you that detail (many would involve Bill Belichick).
The primary point I want to make is that once your strategy is adequate, increased effort should be given to execution.
Time will tell if Chip Kelly can get his team to consistently execute his strategy, if they do, look out NFL.This season, we will all witness if Peyton’s simple strategy paired with amazing execution will be enough to take the Broncos to the title. My prediction is that unless another team out-executes them, that is exactly what he will do.
Go and Execute!