Execution for Top Management
In a casual conversation with a professional (that went a little too ‘professional’ for my liking), the individual vehemently suggested that senior management should get out of execution and only spend time thinking. Thinking about growth and about scale.
I didn’t argue at that time. But now that I’ve had time to think about it – I’ve realized 2 things:
I’m top management.
I’m deep inside execution.
So the question really for me is if I should or should not be doing what I’m doing.
About 30% of our customer base involves marketing teams that hire us for execution and creative direction. However the direction is not ours – it’s theirs. And the execution is simply being able to use the tools that most marketers don’t know how to use. Tools like the Adobe Creative suite.
I tried questioning a customer (I know well) about why this is so. He got upset and snapped ‘If we do design, who’ll think about the bigger things”. I assumed ‘bigger’ meant more important and hence more money. This acquaintance draws a salary of USD 80,000 a year in India. That’s perhaps not impressive globally – but the person who actually executes this vision gets paid less than half. Now I’m not saying salary is the most important thing one works for – but I’m definitely questioning the value of execution inside a function like marketing. The difference in perceived value of execution vs. perceived value of ideas is a little too wide for my liking.
This logic fails for software development. Simply because the ecosystem of software has been so well defined in the last 30 years that thoughts from architects can actually retain their fidelity while trickling down the hierarchy line of product managers, senior developers, and junior coders. It’s not like the architect thought of a function/feature in the code that actually turns out to be something else. That’s just poor communication.
However for marketing teams, the same logic does not validate itself. There are 2 categorical challenges. First is the sheer dependency for marketing on communications. Every advert, every image, every design, every line of text, plays an irrevocable role in the positioning and branding of the business. Basically the marketing of the business. This dependency gets aggravated if the marketing team fails to build an excellent communication engine inside their function, as well as with agencies outside the function.
Second is the nature of the function. The dynamic nature of the business prevents stability. Ergo – almost every second something is changing from the plan. Hence the execution naturally becomes tightly integrated to ‘thoughts n ideas’.
So the question that I feel I should ask the individual at this stage is this. If you thought of an orange and the execution created a Banana, whose fault is it really? And more importantly, who bears the consequence of this? Is it just a communication gap? Or do visionaries need to be able to execute to capture the essence of their idea?