Strategy vs. execution

As some of you may know, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) recently announced fare hikes to ride the public transit system in Toronto. These fare hikes will come into effect at the end of January. What do you think the first thing people will do when they hear that there is a fare hike? That's right, they will buy as many tokens or tickets as they can at the existing price. It is called hoarding by some. I call it being smart.

Do you think that this is something reasonable that the TTC should have expected? Of course it is. How could someone overlook this as a possibility? But they did. So as a temporary solution, the TTC has now enforced a rule that people can only buy 5 tokens at once to prevent hoarding. They also came out with new temporary tickets that can only be used until the end of January when the fare hike takes effect. So what is the problem? Retailers and collectors have a shortage of the temporary tickets, so people riding public transit on a regular basis cannot buy them. See this article.

The TTC developed the ticket strategy to avoid hoarding, which they estimate would have cost them $5m over two months. They call this what would have been lost revenue, but why couldn't they have anticipated this? Why was the execution so poor? How could they not have discussed some of the scenarios that might take place when fares are raised? I have to imagine that the first thing that would come to most people's minds is that people will try and buy a lot now at the current price to save in the future. That is not a stretch, so why is the TTC having to be so reactive?

Many organizations spend so much time reacting to what is going on around them, and focusing on head-down operational decisions, that they forget about execution. Think about how many great ideas and initiatives have failed because of poor execution. Organizations need to focus just as much on the execution as the development of the initial strategy. Execution is what gets you results. Execution is what provides a competitive advantage. Execution is what differentiates a good idea from delivered results. We need to spend more time on execution and less time reacting to every new situation that comes up.


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