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Get the Strategy Right and the Execution Is Easy (avc.com)
88 points by worldvoyageur on Jan 24, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments



Charitably, I think "easy" is the wrong word here. I think Fred meant something like, "get the strategy right and the execution is straightforward hard work."

Still, if "strategy" is "deciding what to do" and "execution" is "doing what you decided to do," then Fred's statement is almost tautological; there's nothing left for execution but "straightforward hard work" once you've drained out all the decision-making.

On the other hand, if we say "strategy" is only decision-making at the highest level, then I don't think execution is just straightforward hard work; there's logistics and tactics, too, which are critical.

Think of the dead companies with the right strategy who spent too much money, or who bet on the wrong technology platform, or who couldn't marshal a top-tier sales organization.


> I think Fred meant something like, "get the strategy right and the execution is straightforward hard work."

I think Fred meant something like "a catchy headline, even if not strictly true, will garner more readers".

It's one of those easy strategies.


Agreed. Either you define strategy either narrowly to be only very high level concepts, such that there are many counterexamples (10gen/MongoDB IMO), or strategy is defined broadly to be any decision of significance, such that this is trivially true.

The only way I could imagine anyone disagreeing on this subject is if they have different definitions of "strategy".


I interpret 'strategy' as integrating ends, ways and means. In other words, deciding where you want to get to, the approach you will use to do so, and how to exploit the resources you have available. Unless your business space is completely predictable , the strategy will have to include decision points. Strategy is often combined with policy, the set of guidelines and constraints you must adhere to.


Easy has two meanings in english.

The first means you understand what to do, though the doing may be arduous. eg getting fit is easy.

The second means the doing is itself not arduous. eg sitting on the couch is easy.


Would you mind referencing a dictionary.


How about simple instead of easy?


> My partner Brad became obsessed with the strategy and go to market and told Dave Morgan, the founder and CEO, that he was “working too hard and getting nowhere” and encouraged him to rethink his strategy. Ultimately Dave decided to flip the go to market model to an ad network and within a year the business exploded and it sold a few years later to AOL for something like $275mm.

Are there good startup-oriented books on go-to-market strategy, distribution channels and business models? E.g. should startups choose business models that are compatible with existing strategy in companies that could aquire the startup?

List of software revenue models derived from a Fred Wilson post, https://gist.github.com/ndarville/4295324

OSS business models, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_models_for_open-sou...

Across many industries, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Business_models


> Are there good startup-oriented books on go-to-market strategy, distribution channels and business models?

- Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter. (But just reading the HBR On Strategy book is probably good enough to get you started.)

- Positioning by Trout & Ries

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Model_Canvas

If you search for things like 'marketing channels map', there are plenty of results. But it's more important to have a few key tactics that play into your strategy, and then your engagement with the rest of the marketing channels is going to be pretty generic for most businesses.

And I don't think there is an authoritative encyclopedia of business models, or at least there wasn't the last time I looked into it.


> an authoritative encyclopedia of business models

Yes, such a high-level overview would be valuable, if only to provide business model names/types for web searches. Along those lines, there is a small book called "The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking", oriented to individual decisions. Each model receives a introduction and illustration, http://www.amazon.com/The-Decision-Book-Strategic-Thinking/d...


These sorts of pithy and sweeping bromides are almost never universally applicable, and relying on them for important decisions is usually a sign of intellectual laziness. Fred points to one case it was applicable, but you could easily point to cases where it isn't (ex: ridesharing).

As for what happened to Tacoda post-acquisition, it wasn't pretty[0].

0: http://venturebeat.com/2008/08/01/aol-shutters-tacoda-merger...


Another bullshit article. Both strategy and execution depend on people and you are screwed either way if you have the wrong people in either areas.


I don't know, this advice feels a little off?

Perhaps a better way to say this is "execution doesn't matter if your strategy isn't working". The way this is written seems to diminish the effort that happens between the pivot and the exit. It also seems to diminish the luck and timing involved (frothy markets, AOL's ravenous acquisition appetite, popularity of ad models, etc)

"Ultimately Dave decided to flip the go to market model to an ad network and within a year the business exploded and it sold a few years later to AOL for something like $275mm."

It also seems to contradict of most startup advice I hear [1], which is some variation of "Ideas are easy. Execution is everything"

[1] http://www.inc.com/laura-montini/john-doerr-3-things-underst...


I'd like to add that getting to a coherent strategy takes time and understanding what it is that you're trying to do. Given the example of Tacoda they probably needed those first 4 ears of 'fooling around' to get to a point where they could figure out, and clearly formulate what it is they should be going after.


This statement definitely has a tension with the oft-repeated mantra "Ideas don't matter." What is a strategy except for a well-considered set of ideas strung together?

I think it is healthy for people to take a step back from the "Ideas don't matter" ledge and consider that execution applied aimlessly also may not matter.


> What is a strategy except for a well-considered set of ideas strung together?

It's probably better to think of the idea as the overall goal and the strategy as the plan for achieving it.

e.g. "Let's $idea by $strategy."


While "easy" probably is not the best word for this, I do think that it's important for founders to remember that strategy is important. It can be easy to think of "the struggle" as a badge of honor, but often if we take a step back and think about the strategy. We can be smarter with our time and get a better ROI on our time.

As a founder myself, I've struggled with getting caught up in too much execution. It's important to take time to lift your head up and see where you're steering the ship, and seeing if there's a path of less resistance :).


It seems to me that he's trying to argue a positive hypothesis when his evidence just points to a negative one. He's really saying, "get the strategy wrong and execution is impossible." But basic logic will tell you that's not the same thing as what he's claiming. It's also a lot less controversial and less likely to drive clicks, so perhaps that's the reason he tried to overreach in his conclusion.


If you are just telling other people to execute, I can see how that could be mistaken for being easy. not a great mindset, but super common amongst executive types


But the strategy is the hardest part...


This is heresy, the sort of stuff they teach MBAs.


Ha, ha, ha, ha. OK OK, sorry. ... ha ha ha.




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