Notes on strategy and execution

Will Larson, How to Size and Assess Teams From an Eng Lead at Stripe, Uber and Digg. This pull-quote lead me through some juicy lines of thinking:

Inflection points are just sustained implementation of a very reasonable thing. Often, the role of the great leader is not to come up with a brilliant strategy, but to convince people to stay the course with a very basic strategy.

Leaders lead folks in exercising a plan or series of plans (i.e. strategy). Basic strategies are almost certain to outperform complex strategies. Complex strategies tend to leak energy and effort at the seams between the basic/legible parts and all the edge cases and exceptions that generate complexity.

“Sustained implementation” implies both quality of execution and compounding returns on effort. Sustaining any strategy is more likely to compound effort than frequently changing strategies. But, bear in mind that high probabilities don’t guarantee that an event will happen.

At the team level, strategy is “why is this project/idea/work important enough to ignore all the other things we could be doing?”. The strategy generates the alignment which makes execution decisions easier. The alignment gives you a principle or goal to return to when things don’t go to plan. The strategy and alignment are guidelines helping teams pull together in the same direction, instead of zeroing out their effort by all pulling in different directions.

No strategy is worse than no strategy. A lack of strategy is the worst thing, probably worse than having no plan. Any given present/actual strategy is likely to outperform no strategy. So definitely have a strategy, even if it is simple or your first try at having a strategy.

Adam Keys @therealadam