World-class Tennis and Strategy Execution

Several decades ago the wooden Dunlop Maxply racket was the only racket to have. A famous squash player said in an advertisement: “Without my Dunlop Maxply, I might as well use a fly swat”. In tennis as well, the Maxply ruled. The wooden Dunlop Maxply accompanied Borg and McEnroe to Finals Day at Wimbledon many times.

But times have changed. Today’s graphite and composite rackets have taken racket sports to unprecedented levels. Like never before, pinpoint control, flaming power and gentle finesse are possible with these new technology rackets. And the players are different as well.  They are much fitter, follow rigorous scientific training regimes and adhere to nutrition plans formulated by sports physicians. Their shoes and clothes have been developed by leading scientists and engineers.

In the world of business, things have also changed, especially the pace of technology and the rapid increase in global competition, all demanding the very best from the company and the leadership team. And strategic planning, once just an exercise of gathering last year’s numbers and adding 10%, is now highly rigorous with SWOT analysis, Porter’s Five-forces, scenario planning, emerging market analytics, pricing theories, Emergent and Disruptive strategies, and numerous other analytical and systematic approaches to developing the best strategy.

But in terms of strategy delivery, most organizations are still playing with the wooden Dunlop Maxply.  The statistics are alarming; most strategies fail, not because of poor strategy, but because of poor execution.  When a CEO is fired, 70% of the time it is for failing to deliver on the strategic objectives they promised the board and the market.  And most execution failures are the result of executives and managers spending more time focusing on their functional objectives than the overall strategic objectives.  What is commonly called “heavy silo focus”.

For the past several years we have been introducing our clients to a new, integrated strategy execution process, along with a software technology platform that breaks down the silo-based culture by organizing and focusing the entire company on the successful delivery of strategic objectives. This robust process helps build a culture of execution and accountability and represents the best chance  organizations have of executing at pace against their strategy.

Those of us of a certain age probably have a soft spot for the original Dunlop Maxply. Maybe one day we’ll have a sentimental attachment to the old silo-based ways of business planning and execution. But in today’s changing and competitive global marketplace, unless you have a robust business process in place that focuses on execution, you really might as well play with a flyswatter!

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to World-class Tennis and Strategy Execution

  1. That\’s fantastic. I like way you present it


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