How to bridge the gap between strategy and execution

By Abbie White. Published at Apr 22, 2020, in Features

There has never been a more critical time to focus on execution.

We have already seen businesses pivoting hard to mitigate risk or seize opportunities that have arisen from the COVID-19 situation. In both scenarios, execution is paramount.

If execution is a challenge, you are not alone. Only 2% of leaders feel confident that 80-100% of their goals will be executed (Source: Bridges Business Consultancy). It is a different skill set to execute than to strategise, which creates a strategy to execution gap.

Execution often depends on a leader’s ability to engage the team and translate the plan into action.

Here are some steps you can take now to double down on your execution.


Execution requires strong, resilient leadership.

Our teams, colleagues, families and communities need us to step up and lead. How we lead now will make a difference.

Good to Great by Jim Collins showed the common denominators of "Great companies" were that they were led by "level 5 leaders" who "confront the brutal facts but never lose faith".

The good and the great companies had challenging times, multiple crises and variable market conditions, but great companies still succeeded despite hard times.

"Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They're incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves." Jim Collins

Times of crises create opportunities for new leaders to emerge.

Project teams

In order to act with speed, we may need to create a virtual project team. Involving everyone might be too slow. A great example of this is SalesForce, within 10 days they took their World Tour event from a physical event to a virtual event. In order to do this, they needed to act really fast and didn’t have time to get everyone’s input or buy in. A virtual project team with the essential key stakeholders enabled them to do so.

Solution Focus

One challenge when you are looking to execute with speed is that some team members are in problem mode whilst others are in solution mode. It’s a different frame of mind to be creative and find solutions than it is to problem solve. To do this, you facilitate two separate meetings. One to determine the problem and put everything on the table. The second, is purely a solution finding exercise. If two meetings aren’t possible, break up the meeting into two parts with a quick 10 minute reset coffee break in the middle.

Transparent Accountability

In order to execute at speed with virtual teams there is no room for error and no time for communication failures. Adopt a project management tool such as Trello or Asana so there is total clarity on who is owning what task and by when.

You set the pace

As the leader in the business people are looking to you to set the pace. If you act calmly but with a sense of urgency others will follow. If you show up late, or don’t deliver on time for your deliverables, guess what? Everyone will do the same.

Set a clear goal

The whole team should be crystal clear on the new goal. The new priorities need to be clearly communicated to everyone so everyone is pulling in the same direction. This might sound obvious but one of the biggest barriers to execute is teams not having clarity on the goal.

Focus on the Wildly Important

A concept from the 4 Disciplines of Execution is to focus on the wildly important goals. These are the goals that are at risk of not happening due to the whirlwind of the day. An execution system is needed to ensure that goal is achieved. The research showed if you have more than 3 goals your chance of success decreases. Right now, with overwhelm being a big barrier to execute focus yourself and your team on where have you the highest propensity to be successful.

Set a team challenge

To keep teams connected and collaborating, set a team challenge and a scoreboard to track progress. The team will benefit from the progress principle which shows as humans we are motivated by progress.

Bizarrely, one of the silver linings of these situations is that teams can rally together towards the common goal under great leadership.

Implementing a 5 or 10 minute daily huddle (virtual huddle) can be very powerful to help the team all feel connected.

You could have a team reward such as a virtual wine tasting party or virtual team cooking class.

Facing unprecedented times, the Australian workforce is understandably distracted and anxious. These tips will help you set the example and lead your team with efficiency and focus. Take action today to not only survive but thrive.

Abbie White is the Founder of The Execution Zone a business education provider for growth hungry entrepreneurs and leaders. She has assisted in the delivery of over $300 Million in sales.

The Execution Zone are offering a free membership for all Australian businesses with resources to manage the COVID-19 crisis. Please visit: or Instagram @TheExecutionZone for more information.

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