To start on a more philosophical note; Nature by design, is a combination of the stable and the unstable, the yin and the yang, the explorer and the builder, the Brownian sperm and the stable egg or in more contemporary terms, the channel surfer and the dedicated soap watcher!
Somehow, it so appears to be the same case with organizations. There’s the vision – the plan to do great things- the eternal “what”. And then there’s the less exciting, more pain staking, and sometimes ceaselessly boring – the “how”.
Over the course of years of trying to define and execute a business, understanding markets, trying to fight stiff competition in sometimes non-existent businesses, I’ve had the opportunity of meeting some of the sharpest minds in business. I’ve met drunk dumbs talking smart, smart drunks talking dumb, hippies (thanks to those friends from advertising who gave this boring technologist a peep into that world) and many more intriguing folks. I’ve always been amazed by how so many people have such great business ideas and how less go to floor and then lesser still translate into actual business.
So once you start to really sit back on a lazy Sunday afternoon, trying to think it through why some businesses where everything in the model made so much sense, are shutting shop and others being brain dead, starting late in an industry already crawling with orgs of all sizes in similar model, are making tones of cash; you have no choice (remember its Sunday afternoon and re-run for top gear doesn’t start for next 3 hours) but to try and think of the most basic question – What’s more important: The “what” or the “how” of business?
So what is more important?
It obviously takes two to tango. So nature has a created a use for both. If you start watching the first channel you encounter when u switch the idiot box on (surprisingly the term was created way before Jay Leno came into existence – talk about seeing the future), you’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff. On the contrary, if you keep surfing, there’s nothing much gained or seen anyways! Apparently same rules apply here as well. However, if it comes to a point where you have to choose between one of the two, personally I think it’s execution that takes the cake. You can get somewhere if you have the right execution, but you can get nowhere with vision alone (and no action to back it with). Most basic of models sometimes generate tremendous value by impeccable operational excellence. Take the Mumbai dabba wallas for instance – not sure what vision drove them, but the execution draws case studies (and Prince Charles everytime… why???) from world over.
Who gets it right… and who does not?
Here is a small take on how vision and execution translate into effective businesses. Diving simply into a 2×2 matrix for good/bad on vision/execution this is what we come up with:
Category 1: good vision, good execution
This is the quadrant of rockstars- Apple, Microsoft, facebook, linkedin, twitter, google. They came, they envisioned, they did it bang-on. No suggestions here – just make an awestruck face, study them and get tonnes of learnings from them. PS: stop saying they got lucky. Luck plays its role, but there’s a way lot more.
Category 2: bad vision, good execution
This set includes people who do, what they do, well but don’t know what to do next. You could be a small time retailer, with a shop that does great. You have enough cash in bank, you have aspirations and no clue of how to grow. When in doubt- ask. That’s why things like Independent directors, Advisors, got introduced in the industry in the first place. Get your domain experts who’ve seen the world. They will take you someplace, ‘coz once they tell you where to go, you’ve mastered the art of getting there anyways!
Category 3: bad vision, bad execution
I don’t know where I’m going and how will I get there. I need to work hard, I don’t know for what. Why!! Please start thinking what you are doing and why and then take a call… today. Don’t hang onto something because it’s your baby. It’s not a baby – it’s a business which should be having a plan or shouldn’t exist at all. Karma is also about intelligence, not about raw labor (fyi, Arjun, the master hero of the you-know-which-book-of-karma was claimed to be super intelligent).Stop digging just anywhere assuming someday water will come. You can get a lot more for a lot less effort if you put in the right thought.
Category 4: good vision, bad execution
The saddest of the lot – Oh it hurts and it hurts bad to see you. You had the best excels, the sexiest presentations, awesome data to support the plan – then where did you go wrong? Truth is that most of the times, execution is boring. So while it all sounded so good – eggs, then chickens, then hen, then more eggs, then poultry and pigs and cows, blah blah blah – most of us get bored immediately after the first 2 chickens are out! If your kick is in new things, please get more people in the gang who get the kicks from ringing cash registers. Business is boring/ mundane sometimes but you have the find joy in the growth and the repetitiveness of things. If you don’t find the joy, please get people who do. Don’t keep seeking new things, unless you’ve juiced out the potential of what you tried to build out.
Time to introspect?
Finally, the biggest challenge in all this is the identification of which category are you in. Acceptance is half the battle won – but it’s easier said than done. You got to be truthful to yourself and your business because it’s not just you, but a lot many lives and families attached to your decisions, whims-that’s a huge burden to carry on your shoulders. Do whats right- Find your category. Get it whetted by outsiders to be certain and take corrective measure to fix it asap. Disastrous execution is death bells; No vision is… well… groping in the dark. After all, you need the sperm AND the egg to finally make the baby… don’t you
[Guest article contributed by Pankaj Vermani, cofounder of Vriti. Pankaj is a B.Tech / M.Tech from IIT Delhi. Prior to Vriti, he was Director of Engineering at Tribal Fusion & Co-Founder / Director, Product Development at SeekNet Technolgies. Vriti was the second venture for him, the first one having gone through successful acquisition in 2005. At Vriti, Pankaj primarily led the product strategy/development, retail business teams, pre-sales and customer relations. A product technologist at heart, he has multiple track records of building teams from scratch and scaling them. He is an active dramatist and performs regularly in Delhi theatre circle.