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Love the title, never heard about such saying. Nice article by the way.


I think this is an old military saying and, if I remember correctly, was advice given to junior officers about where to focus their study


My favorite quote on the topic:

"Genius: One percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Jason Webb

That was a well thought out and well written article. There are some jewels there for those of us not about to embark on starting a new business. thanks for sharing!
Thanks and Regards/-
Jason Webb

Daniel Christadoss

Bob, excellent article. You have hit the nail on the head when you talk about implementation. Many great ideas have met with the deserved success due to the ownership and tenacity of the implementation team. Success in any initiative is definitely a two fold effort. Effective strategy by the leaders and creative implementation by the managers and their team.
There can be great joy and gratification for all in transforming the right dreams into reality.

Harris Silverman

There's a tendency to exaggerate the role of the CEO into that of an all-knowing master strategist whose genius is essential to the success of the business. While leadership and strategy are important, the CEO is just one player on a team, and it's the competence or otherwise of the whole managerial team that determines the success of the company.

Harris Silverman

Joe Marchese

Strategy:Logistics as Approach:Deployment. In your strategy, you can talk-the-talk, but in deployment, it's where you walk-the-talk. It's (relatively) easy to know what to do. The moment of truth comes when you actually do it, the results you get are the real reward.

Bruce Post

Your "Hard Facts" is one of my bibles (and I am a part-time theologian). I will never forget your football analogy (HF, p. 146):

"In U.S. football, every play is designed to go for a touchdown. Why doesn't it? Failures in execution. Linemen miss blocks, running backs stumble, receivers run the wrong routes or drop the ball ...." In other words, game plan and execution.

Obviously, you need a game plan, a strategy, a vision, whatever. As the saying goes: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." Yet, that plan has to be constantly examined and monitored to assure that the nitty-gritty of operations is moving you toward that goal. And, as you emphasized with your reference to Intel (its move to microprocessors) in "Hard Facts", there are times when someone else's strategy (in that case, IBM's) provides an opportunity that may not have been part of your strategy to begin with.

Look at NASA and the space shuttle program. I don't know exactly what NASA's stated strategy was, but it was well-known that it wanted to avoid the dreaded problem of "failure to launch." You might say that this could have been a unwritten strategy: Avoid failure to launch. We all know where that got us, particularly with the Challenger. An important implementation or execution detail -- the viability range of the O-rings -- was compromised by the importance of the "avoiding failure to launch" strategy or, might we call it, anti-strategy? BOOM!!!

michael cardus

Implementation causes success not the BHAGS.
I agree that in order for movement we need to initiate the steps. I see many organizations get bogged in planning how the removal of a coffee pot from the break room will impact employee morale, while the employees are stealing creamers, suger and coffee.
Taking action is challenging because they accountability has to be assigned.


Someone needs to tell BP and the US Government about this. A few less statements that they will "put this right" and a little more logistics sounds a lot like what they need out there :(

Wally Bock

I've heard that phrase most often as "Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics." James is right that it's been around a long time.

It's not just an emphasis on execution rather than strategy. It's also (in the military planner's mind and mine) an emphasis on realistic assessment of possibilities versus "ideal" strategy.

Still, generals and their strategies, get the credit. Everyone remembers Eisenhower. Hardly anyone remembers Sir Frederic Morgan who was the primary planner for D-Day.

I'd add something else, based on my research for Ruthless Focus. Successful companies stay with strategies that work. Wal-Mart's had the same, simple strategy for almost half a century: everyday low prices. Implementation has concentrated on aggressive procurement and cost cutting.

If you stay with a strategy for a while your people can concentrate on implementation instead of learning the strategy of the month. That leads to decreased turnover and increased innovation.


Good post. I think McCannon's efforts (or something similar) were in the Heath's SWITCH. If not, whatever story was also made a great point about the need to focus on numbers.

Laura Schroeder

The title says it all...

James Birchall

I think this is an old military saying and, if I remember correctly, was advice given to junior officers about where to focus their study: on the sexy learning of strategy and maneuver by studying the great battles of the ages or by understanding the mundane forces that set the stage for those battles in the first place.

Love the blog BTW.

Bob Sutton

Hi, I think the response from Joe would be that, of course, IHI or any program could not and did not eliminate all preventable deaths, there are many many more deaths that could be prevented both by following the practices they campaigned for more consistently and other practices. Alas, hospitals have a long way to go.

What do you make, then, of the failure of hospitals to allegedly not follow these simple rules regarding the use of catheters?

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