Become a CreatorSign inGet Started

Why Strategy Execution Is Moving Up The Corporate Agenda

Strategy execution is certainly not a new topic. It has been around for decades and has already been recognized as one of the most challenging aspects of strategy for a long time.


Jeroen Kraaijenbrink

5 months ago | 4 min read

Over the past few years, there is an increased interest in the topic of strategy execution.

Whereas in the past, the focus was largely on strategy generation—the creation or formulation of new strategy—the attention seems to gradually shift to the execution, or implementation of strategy.

Strategy execution is certainly not a new topic. It has been around for decades and has already been recognized as one of the most challenging aspects of strategy for a long time. So, why do we see it moving up the corporate agenda?

The Strategy Execution Trend

To make sense of the growing attention to strategy execution, we first need to understand what this trend looks like—and whether it is actually a trend, a temporary peak, or something else.

Since we can’t easily look into the corporate agendas, hard quantitative data on this is difficult to find. However, the following three pieces of evidence help us make sense of what is going on.

First, Google Trends shows a steady growth of worldwide use of the search term “strategy execution” over the past ten years. It is not impressive and search intensity fluctuates, but as the figure below shows, overall there is a steady growth over the past ten years.

Global use of the search term "strategy execution."

The strength of this trend stands out more when we compare it to the development of related keywords. As it turns out, in the same period, the popularity of the generic search terms “strategy” and “strategic planning” have steadily decreased. 

While the overall usage of these search terms is still significantly higher than “strategy execution,” their trend is downwards, not upwards. Furthermore, the usage of specific terms related to strategy generation (”strategy generation,” “strategy formulation” and “strategy formation”) have remained stable over the same period.

Accordingly, we can conclude that there is a unique and steady positive trend for the search term “strategy execution” over the past 10 years.

A second, more selective sign that there is indeed an increased attention to strategy execution is that trend research and advisory company Gartner has recently started to cover it as an important topic to write about.

Since 2019, for example, they have published a series of articles, carrying titles such as Successful Strategy Execution in a Complex WorldThe 5 Pillars of Strategy Execution and Strategy’s New Execution Mandate.

Given that Gartner is not alone in this increased coverage of strategy execution, this confirms a recent growth in attention to the topic.

Thirdly, market research by Absolute Market Insights expects a strong growth of the “Strategy Execution Management Solution Market.”

They project the market will grow from $1,894M in 2018 to $4,780M in 2027—which is 2,5 times the size in 10 years, or a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8%.

Based on these three indicators, we can conclude that there is indeed a positive trend in the attention to strategy execution and that it is already going on for a while.

Why Is The Attention To Strategy Execution Growing?

There may be various reasons for the fact that the attention to strategy execution is growing while the attention to strategy and strategic planning is not. The following four are the most plausible ones that come to mind:

  1. More strategy execution. A first reason may be that there is more strategy execution taking place in organizations because the strategy cycle has become shorter. While in the past, five year strategic plans were no exception, the dynamic and uncertain environment of today requires strategic plans typically to cover a shorter time span of three years or less. Business has become more agile and shorter cycle times automatically imply an increased frequency of attention to strategy execution initiatives.
  2. More difficult strategy execution. Also contributing to the growing interest may be that strategy execution has become more difficult. Generally, due to increasing employee and customer demands, fiercer competition, and the large number of relevant trends and uncertainties to take into account, doing business has become more challenging in many industries. Accordingly, strategy execution may have become more difficult as well. As Gartner puts it, strategy execution has become more challenging due to more cross-silo coordination, a fast-changing and uncertain landscape, and more decision makers to include in the process.
  3. More important strategy execution. The increased difficulty of doing business has also increased the stakes of strategy execution—and of strategy at large. In the past, companies could still get away with a vague or lacking strategy or a bad or missing execution because competition was lacking and customers were loyal and not overly demanding. In most industries, this is no longer the case. As a result, if there is no good strategy that is well executed, the risk of failure is significant because customers may leave and competitors will take over.
  4. More aware of strategy execution. A final reason for the growing interest may be that executives and managers are simply more aware of the existence and relevance of strategy execution. Of course, it has always been there. But, the awareness that strategy execution entails much more than just the last minor step of strategy, may be something that took a while to sink in, but that finally has entered the boardroom.

Data to sort out which of these four reasons is most prevalent is lacking. Based on my own experience with clients, though, I see most evidence for the fact that the stakes of successful strategy execution have increased (Reason 3) and that executives and manager have become more aware of this fact (Reason 4).

I can’t rule out the possibility that the other two reasons play a role as well. But, whereas strategy execution might be taking place more frequently (Reason 1), I see it happening more so because of an increased awareness and importance than shorter cycle times.

Furthermore, strategy execution has not necessarily become more difficult than it was before (Reason 2). Of course, the developments mentioned at Reason 2 are real for many companies.

But technology and competences have developed as well, and the more decentralized organizational structures that we find in many companies today, can actually help smoothen strategy execution too and make it easier.

But, to conclude, the stakes are higher than in the past, and executives and managers have become more aware of the substance and relevance of strategy execution.

As a consequence, they have moved strategy execution up the corporate agenda. This is good news, because it may help to finally close the decades-old gap between strategy and execution.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here


Created by

Jeroen Kraaijenbrink


Strategy consultant, mentor, writer and speaker

Dr Jeroen Kraaijenbrink is an accomplished strategy educator, speaker, writer and consultant with over two decades of experience bridging academia and industry. Drawing from cognitive psychology, humanism, Saint Benedict, and a wide range of other sources, he is the author of numerous articles on strategy, sustainability and personal leadership and five books: Strategy Consulting, No More Bananas, Unlearning Strategy, and the two-volume practical guide to strategy The Strategy Handbook. He is an active Forbes contributor where he writes about strategy, leadership and how to embrace the complexity and uncertainty of this world. Jeroen has a PhD in industrial management, teaches strategy at the University of Amsterdam Business School, and has helped many midsized and larger companies across the engineering, manufacturing, healthcare and financial services industries.







Related Articles