Strategy or execution: which is hardest to get right?

Strategy or execution: which is hardest to get right?

At a recent legal sector conference one of the speakers, the CEO of a global law firm, was comparing the relative difficulty of devising strategy versus the execution of strategy.

He concluded that getting execution right was more difficult than coming up with a strategy in the first place. This was, he seemed to suggest, because turning a strategy into real change was actually an extremely challenging job, especially when one’s firm was very large.

To illustrate the point the speaker produced a slide, a “strategic framework” that showed the logical inputs that fed into the firm’s regular strategic reviews. It contained information such as the current state of the market, a consideration of what work was profitable, what sort of clients the firm needed to focus on, what talent did they need and where they were trying to get to financially.

From out of this framework came: The Strategy. Now what was deemed “the hard part” began: The Execution. The ideas and aims of the strategic plan now had to be absorbed by the only people who were capable of making it become real: the partners and staff. After all, the management team could tell the firm as loudly and as many times as they wished what the strategy was, but if there was no buy-in from key influencers in the firm, or if people simply didn’t understand the strategy or how it might be applied, for example in terms of modifying Business Development, then it didn’t have much impact. The grand strategy would forever remain an unloved deck of PowerPoint slides stored on the managing partner's laptop.

In this respect the best strategy in the world was worthless if the firm could not make it real through efficient execut

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About the author:

Richard helps law firms with important strategic decisions. He advises on areas such as merger, practice development and geographical expansion. He also provides assistance to law firms in relation to organisational and operational issues.

Richard has spent over 16 years working in the legal sector focused on the UK and global legal markets. He previously worked at Jomati as a strategy consultant and authored the Jomati Report series between 2009 and 2014.

Prior to that, Richard worked at US-based, Hildebrandt International, and also held senior, legal sector editorial roles in London and Paris.