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I’m convinced that “implementations” are more challenging than “strategy” consulting. Having done both, the nuances associated with having to figure out every last detail in implementations makes the work significantly more challenging than painting high-level strategy in what is often broad brushstrokes filled with assumptions.

likefunnysmarthelpful
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Strategy is more prestigious because it precedes the significant time and investment of the implementation. You want your smartest people to develop the strategy so the dollars spent on implementation are in the right direction. It makes sense to spend a small amount more upfront to save a lot on the back end and with future issues. Im not in strategy consulting but that’s why they have it that way. I don’t think strategy is actually more difficult aside from the hours and speed within the culture of strategy consulting. You still want the theoretically smarter people to precede the big spend if implementation though because the extra cost compared to overall implementation is minimal.

likehelpful

Because it pays more

As someone who has been at all ends of the spectrum I won't say that one ore the other is harder. They each have unique challenges. If someone finds one harder it simply means that their natural skills lean towards the other one. There are people whose natural talent is strategy and those whose natural talents lean towards implementation.

But, in general, I would say that strategy is more valuable. Because you always need a strategy before you implement and you cannot fix a bad strategy with a good implementation. Or, as I often tell people, I have sometimes seen bad implementations come out of good strategies but I have never seen a good implementation come out of a bad strategy. It is a higher order skill.

But there is one more very important factor that is being hinted at by you and some others: It is very hard to BS your way out of a bad implementation and pretend that it is actually good. But it is not just possible but common for people to BS their way out of a bad strategy and pretend it is brilliant. Because, if it fails you can always blame the implementor or some other random factor, not your own lousy strategy.

So people working in strategy have that advantage which means that people whose only actual skill is BS migrate towards strategy. Which eventually leads towards the perception that you are voicing.
Personally, I believe that every strategist should always have some level of implementation skill even if it is only project management. And a strategist should ideally be in charge of, and accountable for, implementing their own strategy. If you are not willing to eat your own dog food then why push it on others?

But what if they don't understand how to implement? - Well, if they don't understand implementation, what business do they have offering a strategy? Like I implied, I don't mean they need to know how to write Java code or do database design. They ought to understand the process of structuring a project, required skillsets, general idea of implementation constraints and timelines, etc.

Without that was is the meaning of a strategy? It is just spinning fairy tales and abstractions.

Long involved answer, but that is the reality of the world we live in.

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I think it’s a chicken and egg to be honest. You can’t be successful without both and neither can accomplish the end state alone successfully.
Strategy has to drive the implementation. If it’s down poorly then the implementation fails typically (end state, time, budget etc). At the same point, a poorly done implementation won’t provide the benefit case either or might just be wrong.
I can’t say how many times I’ve seen execs or senior management complain about a firm and their strategy. My comment is typically your complaining they gave you a playbook. A companies failure to implement it themselves or bring in someone to do it is really your own fault.
Sure some strategies are poorly done but even then there’s typically a reason. From my experience it’s lack of transparency or info from the client as well.

They are both completely different one is analytical and the other operational. Two different mindsets and work. Apples to oranges

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I agree implementations are harder. I also think the best background for a strategist is in implementation. If you don't have experience delivering then your strategies are academic and at higher risk for failure.

likesmart

Specialist - What makes you so smart?

likefunny

Level of insecurity in this thread only topped by the level of ignorance.

People, you really shouldn’t criticize something you have no basis to criticize. You want to do implementation work, have at it. But I’d love to drop some of these commenters into a McKinsey team room at midnight on week 7 of an 8 week strategy and see you how you keep up.

likefunnysmart

Strategy is an outside perspective to a client who can manage the politics, implementation is actually making things happen.

Both are valuable, but the skill advancement in both differ. Implementation - keep growing technical skills, get better with different environments and technologies, keep working on developing your hard skills and knowledge.

Strategy- soft skills, understanding the situation, thinking creatively, and most important of all managing the clients and their perspective. This is mostly a mix of social skills and consulting experience.

I would say given I’m doing both, the social skills and strategy come easier than the hard skills where I need to consciously go out there and do certs and trainings and so on. So I do have more respect for the implementation guys in terms of actually doing the work and consciously pursuing their technical development whereas I’ve seen a lot of people myself included who are coasting on just job experience and social skills for strategy.

like

I’ve found implementations pretty repetitive. Strategy is more unique

likefunnysmart

You will not get paid the big bucks to deliver on time. You’ll get paid the big bucks to pick the right things to deliver on time. Execution gets the job done but strategy is what differentiates.

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Well yea, digging the ditch is always more taxing than Figuring out if you need one or not.

Implementation is just the modern day version of blue collar workers.

likefunnysmart

Definitely agree on the discounting 90% for experience.

Only really improved one skill, and that's the ability to identify the knuckle draggers from a mile away.

like

Implementation in consulting is merely PMO. You don’t really implement anything but your clients do that.

likefunnysmart

C2 please get more experience and let this go lmao

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"Strategy" is generally challenging because of the ambiguity of the problem you're solving and the lack of clear solution, requiring a very structured hypothesis-driven approach. Structuring ambiguous problems is hard, and the skill set rarer, hence the prestige. Implementations on the other hand usually have a clear roadmap and are much more tactical. Due to the relative lack of ambiguity (usually), I would say they are generally easier problems to solve

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Agree with you, OP. There are so many holes in strategy recommendations/plans that aren't uncovered until you start implementing. In my current role in industry, I'm doing both. It's fun though!

likesmart

a Partner 1, careful what you ask for. Asses are very hard to direct. I've known some stubborn ones in my time.

MBB people right now to the Big 4 implementers / geniuses

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likefunny

Lmao KPMG5, most underrated comment on the thread

like

In Strategy work consultant BS their way to some deliverables which may never result in any fruitful results, a bunch of slides with fancy words which may die in some VP or C Suite members mailbox

Implementation is what brings strategy work to life, if you have BullShi!!ed your strategy work , implementation will catch it.

As a director I have led multimillion dollar projects which started with Strategy teams laying out the strategy and when the implementation would pick it up to deliver the real/tangible product which will be used by thousands of users on a daily basis we would find how much fu$&ing BS strategy team has put in their deliverable slide decks

likefunny

Of course there are examples, looks like you haven’t gotten a chance to see the other end of the spectrum

Sales strategy usually is mapped to a CRM such as Salesforce which is used by thousands of sales team members

Pricing strategy gets mapped to Pricing Software tools such as PROS & Vendavo which is used by thousands of airline pricing strategists

Marketing strategy is mapped to MA tool
I can go on & on, I have had 20 years of experience across, strategy & implementation to sell large scale enterprise work

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Makes no sense to me why talent from prestigious universities are placed in strategy work and talent from lower ranking schools are placed in implementation work.

like

Because lesser paid folks are often the ones doing the heavy lifting - this is coming from someone who has lived in each tax bracket at one time or another.

likesmart

Clearly no one here has worked on a commercial due dili engagement. Implementation is only hard because you need to make a taxonomy, work with back office (people on life support professionally), and try to keep a straight face when saying things like ‘target operating model’, ‘current vs. future state’, and ‘agile’. Bonus points if you drop fancy terms like AI, ML, RPA, etc. but can’t write a single line of code to save your life.

likefunny

All the T2 folks who barely even do proper strategy took this personally 😂

likefunny

EYP1: you took this personally 😀

Implementation is for laborers - strategy is for leaders

likefunny

If by "leaders" you mean smooth-talkers with hands like bloody cream, sure.

likefunny

I think you’re on to something but I don’t think it’s that black and white. Implementations as you mentioned require great, great detail in design, planning, testing, and is not done normally in less than 3 months.
Strategy is more analysis, benchmarking, and then presentation work to C-suite level folks which is why I believe there is this ‘prestige’ behind this type of work. The funny thing is most strategies that are put on paper don’t work out and will normally fall on the implementation team to try and figure out how to fix.

Also timeline wise I would say strategy is tougher / longer hours but I did implementation work and all projects are well over 60+ week.

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I agree with the differences but design, build, test, deployment are all pretty different from each other, too. The strategy is just the first phase of the cycle.

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Relevant

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likefunny

💯💯

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Very simple

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likefunny

Coconut is clearly better.

I do some strategy work in my role but heavier on implementation. I like implementation better but I find it's really valuable to be there at the beginning when the strategy is developed so you can see the project all the way through.

This also drives ownership of the strategy. If you are going to be implementing it better be a good strategy. If the strategy consultants move on to something else there is often no accountability for a crap strategy

like

I completely agree that being on an engagement from initial strategy through execution is super valuable. It is interesting that most engagements have completely separate teams for the strategy and implementation portions of a project in light of this. My guess is that it probably just doesn’t make sense economically since strategy folks tend to cost more.

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The greatest conundrum in my mind- if strategy work is easier and better paying, then why doesn’t labor supply normalize until the unique rare skill set that is implementation becomes higher paying?

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I have a lot of business ideas and detailed strategies in my head. Implementing those is the only hurdle in me being a successful entrepreneur

likesmartfunny

As I transition into strategy from process-level, I find myself having to scale things up to a level I find personally uninformative and unhelpful to anyone - actual detail is just being fully scrubbed. Yet, that's the thing they want.

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Equally amusing: you think I’m two people.

funny

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