teamwork makes work more productive

Marketing has never been a safe space for dilettantes or the faint of heart. Effective execution requires team discipline, precision movement, relevant expertise, and coordinated agility — assets leveraged best through early involvement.

When introducing a new initiative, inventing a new business category, or developing a unique brand identity, the delta between clever idea and market-leader is in the deliverables. the big idea is just the beginning. Successful campaigns and effective tactics are as much the result of good execution as a good idea.

Team success comes through process. Mastering the art of execution means breaking the big steps down to a manageable level of detail so that getting those big ideas to the marketplace becomes more doable. Aligning sales, marketing and operations in a consistent way makes everything work better.

Your plan can hold off on some of the minutia as you begin ­— but not for long, because effective execution is all about sorting through the details. While strategy can be defined as doing the right things, and effective execution is doing things right. Getting things right requires a steady hand guiding the team through the process from the outset. With the right team in place from the beginning, the odds for success on the first try are that much greater.

define the mission.

act quickly.

measure results.

adapt accordingly.

what works?

So what does effective execution entail? First, define the mission in clear terms so everyone knows what needs to be done. Then determine how to measure your progress. Historical benchmarking can be a good place to start, but milestones need to be examined periodically to make sure they stay relevant. Do we measure success in tons or dollars? Trading margins or cost of ownership? Market share or mind share? Your business or marketing plan may have already laid out mission objectives in broad terms, now you need to translate those aims into measurable units of action. These details become the foundation of he action plan.

Mission goals should be reasonable, tangible, and clear. Specific metrics need to be projected early to give your team a rallying point. Details are essential. (e.g. Increase market share by 3% while maintaining current margins year over  year, or generate $3mm in incremental revenue with a new product launch). More complex details like sequencing, priorities and in-flight adjustments are  necessary to achieve those goals. Early involvement of the implementation team is essential to getting this right. Early involvement means early discussion, early argument, early agreement and early commitment.

Executing well requires breaking those macro goals into micro chunks with monthly or even weekly benchmarking. So you need a system to monitor progress so you can utilize the results and adapt accordingly. The final step is to make any necessary adjustments. If the analysis shows you aren’t hitting your marks in a timely manner, it may be time to step up the pace or modify your methods.

Just as continuity of purpose is essential to team efficiency, siloing tasks or role stratification can work against team effectiveness and make timely execution of strategy more difficult and costly. Breaking the process down to rigid procedural roles often leads to a breakdown in performance. Team players have to depend on each other.

stay agile to get it right the first time.


process makes perfect.

Software development teams live and die on their ability to get a bug-free product to market quickly.  Developers stay ahead of the curve by adhering to an agile process that follows this never-ending cycle: Plan. Design. Develop. Test. Evaluate. Plan.

Breaking the project into smaller team activities called scrums, developers race against time by working in short-term sprints of one to three weeks, with daily stand ups to keep the team focused on the task. Although the scrum’s flat team structure, mission focus, and intense activity may appear detached to an outside observer. the team develops its own rules with a clear set of expectations as to what it will take to reach common accord.

It’s the Scrum Master that manages the process for how information is prioritized and exchanged. It’s also the basis for a continual improvement process that goes on even after launch. Hence v1.2, 2.0, 6.7, etc. Standards like these apply well to planning for efficient execution and aligning your sales and marketing strategy. The advantages of engaging an experienced Scrum Master to streamline your strategic planning and execution process achieve its mission outweigh the cost.

Successful leaders follow this continual improvement practice relentlessly. One only needs to look at two of the world's largest market-cap companies to understand how it works to their advantage. Exxon is always searching for new resources, simultaneously developing new markets and new uses for it. Apple perpetually pursues new utility for its products as it continues development of new ways to make their products better. Constant evolution never stops because success is a moving target.

are we brilliant, or what?

bring me the bad news first

OK. Let’s say you hit your numbers and your plan appears to be working as intended. High fives all around! But before you go dancing in the end zone, step back and consider measuring not just the progress you’re making towards your ultimate goal, but also ask if it’s the plan itself that’s doing all the work.

It could be that you nailed your market share gains because your competition screwed up, or there was a surprise seasonal spike, or other factors out of your control may have influenced events. You can't do much about the good news except learn from it.

An after-action report will bring you back to earth because there’s more to making plan than examining just the top and bottom lines. The utility of a plan that is left unexamined by debriefing is questionable. It can’t be adjusted for optimal execution or future use. Any successful coach will have the team watch game film after wins as well as after losses. Just as we all know there's more to learn from our losses than finger pointing, we can also learn from our success.

Your business doesn’t exist is a vacuum. As you act, customers decide, and competitors react, and so it goes. The market changes. What worked today, with today’s customers, may not resonate with tomorrow’s new group of potential customers, who are now assessing your value in the current market, and not from yesterday’s perspective. Your actions may also create opportunities for your competitors, if not for you.

It pays to have an experienced hand on your team who has been there before and holds steady when things get shaky, one who knows that new threats may come from unexpected places. That's when you need to be prepared. That doesn't necessarily mean a fully fleshed out response. But it helps to have a response team drilled and ready.

Solving problems is the most basic task of leadership. It may help to ask, if you were competing with yourself, what would you do? What is your new upstart competitor doing? Your old rival? Why are they doing it? And what can you do about it? Is there an answer in your strategy? Your brand? Your creative? The path to good execution is rarely a straight line. Taking a proactive stance goes a long way toward being prepared when the unexpected occurs. There’s a lot to be gained when your implementation team works together from start to finish. The sooner the better.

pulling it all together

Where do you stand in bringing your strategy into the market? Is everything aligned? Perhaps much of the early work (Discovery and Assessment) has already been done through a strategic planning exercise, market research and analysis, or your own internal process for benchmarking. That’s not just a good place to start. It becomes the foundation of everything that follows.

With a brief review for contextual alignment, fact-checking and challenged assumptions, the stage is set to complete the final three phases of the process (Scenario Planning, Recommendations and Implementation). There’s a lot to be gained working as a team to implement your plan, with early involvement in the process from the outset. The sooner the better.

If you've stayed with us this far, perhaps you see a compelling business reason to include us on your team for your next venture. We can help you develop and successfully implement an innovative and market-disrupting strategy that's right for your business.

To learn more about how you can have a successful and timely execution of your strategic marketing plan, e-mail to or call Gerard Cavanaugh at 1.610.639.4485.



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