It’s not the vision; It’s the execution of the vision

Home Forums Leadership and Management It’s not the vision; It’s the execution of the vision

This topic contains 20 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Peter Sperry 7 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #159438

    Bill Brantley
    Participant

    Joe Wilcox writes a provocative post where he argues that Apple is better off without Steve Jobs because Tim Cook’s logistical genius is what makes Apple successful.

    So, which is more important? Vision or execution?

  • #159478

    Peter Sperry
    Participant

    Which is more important in a marathon, your right leg or your left? Either one without the other is better than nothing but nowhere near sufficient to win the race.

  • #159476

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    I would also wonder whether or not Apple products would have had such demand had it not been for Jobs showboatish way of announcing them. Though it may have led to supply-chain issues, do you think it also helped boost demand?

  • #159474

    Bill Brantley
    Participant

    @Peter – You know a false dilemma when you see one! 🙂

  • #159472

    Bill Brantley
    Participant

    @Corey – Absolutely! Steve Jobs was the consummate marketer and he knew how to market cool. It helped that he had an incredible developer in Steve Wozinak.

  • #159470

    Oh please.

  • #159468

    Deb Green
    Participant

    Love it Peter! You can’t have a successful project without both. Action without direction is as useful as direction without action.

  • #159466

    Bill Brantley
    Participant

    @Dannielle: What specifically do you object to? The author’s argument that Apple is better without Jobs? The false dilemma posed in my question?

  • #159464

    I always argued that if you lay out a vison that’s clear enough, strong enough, and inspiring enough to get the right people into the right places – that the execution would never fail because of the strength of the team.

    Unfortunately, very few agencies can lay out a vision like that and expect to attract the bad asses needed to make this level of teamwork possible. NASA can. The CFPB can. Post Office – not so much. So, in those cases – execution has the upper hand.

  • #159462

    You know, this might not be a false dilemma, Bill. If you are talking about the role of a *leader*, then I’d say vision is more important than execution. In fact, the more a leader gets involved in execution, the more employees might feel as if they are not trusted to accomplish the jobs they were hired to perform. Don’t get me wrong – you obviously need both in an organization, but I’d say a leader needs to set a compelling vision, then trust the great people they’ve hired to execute on it.

  • #159460

    Deb Green
    Participant

    That’s a really good point Andy –

  • #159458

    Allison Trembly
    Participant

    I agree!

  • #159456

    Allison Trembly
    Participant

    You cannot have one without the other

  • #159454

    Clator Butler
    Participant

    I like chocolate. I like peanut butter. But a Reese’s Cup is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

  • #159452

    Bill Brantley
    Participant

    Me too!

  • #159450

    Bill Brantley
    Participant

    Good point. But what about the servant-leader model where the leader helps the group execute the vision the group comes up with? Also, there are leaderless groups in the form of self-managing teams.

    You and Peter have hit on my point: Vision and execution are really not separate entities but have a symbiotic relationship. Jobs was not just a great visionary but (as Josh so aptly detailed in his postings on Jobs as a project manager) he also knew how to execute. And Cook’s execution is guided by another type of vision.

    I also wanted to make a secondary point about the business press and how it always tries to fit everything into a black-and-white narrative frame. Business and governing are more complex than the business gurus and consultants would have you believe.

  • #159448

    Peter Sperry
    Participant

    If you absolutely must choose one or the other, I would point out that with multiple ways to achieve the same objectives, a well executed implementation of a mediocre vision will get you to your goals far faster than a poorly executed implementation of an exceptional vision. The very best leaders understand this and do in fact focus on execution. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers were hardly visionary with their 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense. They just could not be stopped when they executed it. Ford has not produced a truly visionary automobile since the Mustang while both GM (VOLT) and Chrysler (Minivan) have pioneered vision over the past 20 years. But Fords impecable execution of the Taurus (bland but gets the job done) kept them out of bankruptcy. Admiral Thad Allen did not bring a particularly new or different vision to any of his recent high profile assignments. He brought a well deserved reputation for focusing on the basics and achieving results.

    Yes, vision is a critical requirement for leaders. So is execution. But if you are a senior executive choosing a subordinate leader to take charge of a critical assignment and your only choices are one with mediocre vision and outstanding focus on execution or one with outstanding vision and mediocre focus on execution; the one who executes will produce better results faster.

    Ironically,if you can take both, assign the execution guru as chief of staff to the visionary and the results will knock your socks off. The dynamic can work in reverse as well but I’ve found visionaries are more uncomfortable working for execution focused supervisors than the other way around.

  • #159446

    Robert E. Jones
    Participant

    I believe both are necessary and both require a leader who is visionary, who can communicate that vision, who can trust those around them to do their parts, and who is also a servant-leader in that he has tasks to complete as part of the vision. Leaders who toss out visions at every meeting with no guidance or clarification are just as annoying as leaders who try to get involved in every aspect of the execution. Effective leaders recognize that one of their primary tasks (maybe their only task) is to communicate that vision to all stakeholders. When leaders fail to communicate the vision to all stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, stockholders, etc.), all of the execution in the world is for naught. We are all fighting battles, but not focused on winning the war.

    This is a topic with which I struggle daily in my job, and I wish I had a more succinct and effective way to communicate my observations.

  • #159444

    Hey Bill – I appreciate the servant leader model (and wish I could more and more resemble that kind of leader)…and I think you’re spot on in terms of the emergence of a more modular, “leaderless” approach that involves temporary project managers as custodians/stewards through scope completion.

    But there is also a group of employees that say they want to be part of vision creation and, when brought to the table, do not contribute to its development (and don’t want to!). There are some who just say, “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” That’s not bad, just preference – and we need all kinds of folks to make the mission happen.

    The best leaders collect input, cast a vision, check-in, ask where they’re needed to achieve it, contribute in precisely that place, then move adroitly back to the higher level thinking that moves the organization to new levels of mission achievement. I don’t think anyone wants a leader in the weeds all the time or too much. Agree?

  • #159442

    Josh Nankivel
    Participant

    Execution is more important. I think a more apt metaphor is that execution is the muscles pumping, and vision is the difference between running on foot and having a bicycle.

    You can still run without the bicycle, but the bicycle does you no good without muscles to power it. And you can run pretty fast and far on foot, but the addition of the bicycle puts you on another level.

  • #159440

    Brian Dowling
    Participant

    The question on the GovLoop email was What’s More Important? A Leader’s Vision or the Organization’s Execution of It? So it not only brought in the supposed dichotomy of vision versus execution but also of leader in relation to organization. There are important differences though in my view between private organizations such as Apple Computers and public organizations. Not only internally in terms of their own workings, but for public organizations a larger consideration of execution within the larger community within which they exist. An organizations level of successful execution should depend in most cases upon the successful adaption by the community. The community should also be doing more to define the vision of the so-called leadership, which in a democratic system should have a far different connotation than it does in the world of Steve Jobs. There will still be a need for visionary leadership to inform and influence through facilitation community goals and organizational effectiveness by government professional, but thinking of ourselves as making choices between defining the vision or executing it as to what we give citizens relegates them to public services consumers. I for one think those roles are changing for both sides of the equation.

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