A review of The Strategy of Execution

I was once asked at an executive education event by a slightly over-refreshed CEO what he should do with his business. Naively, I asked him lots of questions about his business to a point where he became short of attention. An arriving colleague was similarly accosted and responded ‘you should identify your core competences, develop strategic intent and compete for the future’.  I thought ‘well, there is that’, but our CEO wrote it down. I would like to think that when he sobered up he found himself in possession of this book.


Liz Mellon and Simon Carter have continued their work of distilling their vast experience of senior executive ‘strategizing’ into a cogent and readable assault on the thorniest problem in business strategy; how to implement and execute. It is thorny not least because it has to deal with the relationship between rationality and emotion. Developing strategies involves rigorous and systematic analysis of markets, competitors and capabilities. You can buy in, as Mellon and Carter put it ‘the biggest brains on the planet’ to help you do it. Executing it tests out leadership, culture and engagement throughout the organisation and you have to do it yourself. No wonder, as they note, most of the time it does not work and the vast sums spent on the vast brains are wasted.


The book is essentially a road map of the necessary and sufficient steps involved in strategy execution. It is about mobilisation, energizing and persistence. Some in the Mintzberg tradition might find the model a bit top down since it very clearly focuses on the roles of senior executives. Those executives will find it invaluable. The steps are clear, the actions measureable and the outcomes crucial. The book carries off the trick of outlining a rational plan for the mobilisation of emotional commitment to change.


As one would expect with Mellon and Carter’s work, the writing is clear and the pace is crisp. This reviewer warmed to the use of varied case examples; not just your average internet start up but a plasterboard business for the finale. This should be essential reading not only for CEO’s but for those advising them on how to execute their strategies successfully."


Paul Willman

London School of Economics


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