Execution - the forgotten discipline in retail

The ability to execute is a KEY DRIVER of excellence.

I once stumbled upon this post by Jan Dahl Andersen, Director of Effective Retail. The post cracks open the barriers to retail execution – an ongoing challenge that keeps popping up in the conversations I have with retailers.

Retailers seem to forget the discipline of execution. Surprisingly, when you think execution is actually at the core of any retail business. The ability to execute is a KEY DRIVER of excellence. Execution is getting things done and it is not a quick fix.

So where do retailers get stuck?

Many seem to lack focus, patience and the ability to execute a strategy – to make things happen. Strategy is rarely the issue. Retailers can, and do design consumer-oriented strategies. And then design and redesign a few more. And a few more on top of that. As a retailer, you might not need a new strategy. What you need is to secure your strategy is understood, accepted and turned into behaviour by your staff.

A retail business that struggles to execute strategies is by definition not reaching the full potential of the value it can bring to the consumer.

To quote co-author of the book “The 4 disciplines of Execution“, Chris Mcchesney: the trick with execution is not just executing a strategy – it’s executing a strategy in the middle of a 100 miles per hour whirlwind. The “whirlwind“ referring to the enormous amount of energy and focus it takes to just keep the daily operations of running the business.

How can retailers navigate the “whirlwind”?

A strategy can be just as overwhelming as a first driving lesson for people at all levels of the organization – also in the stores. Just as with driving for the first time, there are way too many details to master from moment one. That is why staff often ends up focusing on surviving the 100 miles per hour whirlwind. They are in over their heads in daily operations instead of seeing the bigger picture. That’s where A LOT of practice, feedback and support should come in.

To stay competitive in retail make sure execution is at the top of your priority list. I urge retailers to measure and test their ability to execute a strategy, plan or goal. Find out where in the value chain things get done and where your strategy gets lost in translation.

And no matter what, keep in mind that less than perfect results don’t mean you’ve failed. You just doubled the chances of a better execution in the future.