A good quote applied at the right time can inspire real change. I’ve reflected on hundreds of strategy execution quotes and selected five I believe to be the most impactful for leaders. How might you apply them in your business?

  1. Steve Jobs

    “It is only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

    There is no shortage of ideas. I’d go further in saying there is no shortage of great ideas. The late, great Steve Jobs said that Apple said ‘no’ to great ideas every day and that is why they were successful.

    He recognised the power of focused effort. By adding goals, projects and other activities to the work schedule, time and attention becomes diluted – often away from the things that really matter. Successful businesses focus on a small number of things that yield the greatest results.

  2. Anonymous

    Failing to plan is planning to fail.

    The Greek philosopher ‘Anonymous’ is right on the money. Look back on any business venture that failed to deliver intended results and you will find poor planning is often front and centre.

    In fact, research on 750 bankruptcies during a 25-year period showed that the number one factor behind these failures was bad strategy. Bad strategy is often the result of poor or insufficient planning.

    The most successful businesses dedicate substantial amounts of leadership time on improving the quality of plans as they understand that one minute spent in proper planning can save 10 minutes in execution.

  3. Peter Drucker

    There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

    If you examined all the activities that are done in a business, you might be surprised at what you find. There will be a number that just aren’t adding any value at all. The worst part is that these non-value-adding activities are often deeply entrenched in the ‘way things are done around here’. Becoming more efficient around redundant tasks is like watering a fake flower – it provides no reward for effort.

    Businesses (and individuals within businesses) should do regular audits of all activities by asking three key questions:

    • Why do we do this?
    • Is this valuable? (and if not, consider scrapping it)
    • Is there a different approach that will deliver greater value?

    A business with 100 employees will complete upwards of 192,000 hours of work a year. If this business shed two hours (~5%) a week of non-value-adding activity for each employee then you would gain 9600 hours for redistribution. If focused in the right areas, imagine the difference that time could make.

  4. Simon Sinek

    Those who know WHAT they do tend to work harder. Those who know WHY tend to work smarter.

    For a strategy to be successful, it needs to have buy-in from the critical mass of leaders entrusted in delivering it. So how do you get the buy-in? And, second, how do you know when you have it? The key is involving the leadership team (and selected others) in the right way and connecting with them at a head and heart level.

    They need to understand why they are doing something as there is power in purpose. Sure, it takes a greater investment in dollars and time to get to this, but invariably you get a much better, more focused plan that is much more likely to be effectively executed. High levels of commitment unlock discretionary effort and ensure greater focus on the things that matter.

  5. Winston Churchill

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally measure the results.

    I have always loved playing sports, whether it is cricket, football, tennis or golf. But something interesting happens when I don’t keep score – my competitive drive goes down, care factor drops and focus on improving diminishes. The same applies in business. If you asked many leaders how they are tracking on key measures in their strategy, they wouldn’t be able to tell you.

    There are too many businesses that have solid, well-thought-out strategies that sit in a drawer somewhere collecting dust. Measuring strategy progress at regular intervals throughout the year is something that all businesses should do. However, this is not nearly enough. Quality conversations around performance are critical so that important course corrective action can be taken as needed.