What is the Difference Between Planning and Execution?

There is a saying that well begun is half done, and so is the case with planning and execution. Therefore, we have combined the perfect literary information to explain the difference between planning and execution.

The difference between Planning and Execution
The difference between planning and execution is the act. Planning prepares the plan while execution transforms this plan into actions and achievements. Planning is a mental and intellectual process, while execution is the process of performing and accomplishing tasks.

This is a to-the-point explanation of the difference between planning and execution. For a more detailed understanding of the difference between the two, let’s dive into this article.

💡 Helpful Statistics About Planning:

 Companies with written business plans grow 30% faster. 

 Businesses with a plan are far more likely to get funding than those that don’t have a plan.

 67% of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution. (HBR)

 60–90% of strategic plans never fully launch.

 48% of leaders spend less than a day on strategy each month. (HBS)

 95% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy. (HBR)

 61% of executives feel they are not prepared for the strategic challenges. (HBR)

 77% of successful companies translate their strategy into operational terms and evaluate it on a day-to- day basis. (Palladium)
Planning Statistic
Planning Statistic

Explanation of the difference between planning and execution

The difference between planning and execution is that planning involves the formulation of goals, and execution is about the implementation of those goals. Although both are cognitive abilities, planning is all about creating and keeping an idea in mind. In contrast, execution is acting on a particular idea. A perfect idea, if not appropriately executed, is of no use.

To get a clear understanding of the difference between the two concepts, let’s have a glance at them.

What is planning?

In organizations, planning is defining the reason behind the existence of any project. The basic aim of the planning process in organizations is to set SMART goals. SMART goals mean Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Later, individual tasks are designed so that each task leads to achieving the goals.

Organizational planning is a structured concept. It involves three essential steps:

Defining the mission of the organization
In this step, the organization sets the broad objectives i.e. where it needs to stand in the long run. Furthermore, it involves clarifying what needs to be attained in the planning process.

Setting goals
Goals should be realistic and attainable. All goals should be measurable. For example, the goal of the organization’s sales department is to increase sales by 10 percent this year.

Creating discrete tasks to achieve the goals
This step involves the creation of a discrete set of tasks for the achievement of goals. All tasks must be well defined. It should be clear who is responsible for a particular task and why.

Each step in the process is a prerequisite to the other. You can also read the article on the planning cycle to undertsand the planning process better.

Accurate planning can help in the avoidance of several risks and bottlenecks. A good plan ensures accurate execution of the tasks. Therefore, the path towards organizational success is not disrupted.

What is execution?

Execution is the implementation of discrete tasks to achieve organizational goals. Every organization first formulates and then implements a strategic plan for the achievement of the overall goals of the organization. Using business intelligence to achieve performance in a business organization is execution.

When implemented in organizations, execution becomes strategic. Therefore, strategic execution is the implementation of a strategic plan. The purpose of strategic execution is to achieve organizational goals.

Strategic execution uses all systems and resources of an organization. The organization’s decisions are also aligned strategically. The purpose of strategic execution is:

  • To explain organizational goals to employees
  • To clarify the steps the organization needs to achieve the goals set
  • To determine the deliverables of the original plan
  • To establish control measures that ensure deliverables are successfully contributing towards the achievement of final goals.
  • To consistently evaluate the processes and plans which are used to deliver the output

Planning versus Execution

A plan without execution remains an idea, and execution without a plan is useless. Hence both planning and execution are interlinked with each other. Both are critical for the successful performance of an organization. Both are entirely different, yet both are necessary for the survival of an organization in a dynamic environment. Then where do both differ?

Formulation of a strategic plan comes under the domain of planning. Implementation of the strategic plan is called execution
Planning is the process of defining goals, evaluating alternatives, and developing a plan. Execution results from the thousands of decisions employees make in the planning process.
Planning is the prerequisite for execution Execution is the bridge between planning and a successful project
Planning involves realistic estimations of the project’s tasks, cost, delivery, risks, and time Execution is the implementation of those various tasks to make the project successful
Planning is a formulation of a path that the organization should follow to reach its goals Execution is the implementation of that path to reach organizational goals

The Link Between Planning and Execution

The plan bridges the gap between planning and execution, maintaining the conceptual difference between the two. The first step is the planning of the future vision of the organization. The second step is the formulation of steps for the realization of targeted goals. Later it focuses on the execution and management of the goals set.

How a plan acts as a bridge between the planning and execution process is very interesting. To begin with, a plan provides an opportunity for the executives to confront a future they are not part of. In fact, they can only make assumptions and forecasts about it. Making important decisions for the organization’s success and existence is also part of the plan.

A considerable amount of fear is associated with this decision-making process in a plan. The reason is that one wrong decision can ruin the execution process. As a result, leading to the downfall of the organization as a whole.

Execution is putting the actual plan into action. Therefore, a carefully formulated plan links the planning process to implementation. The basic idea behind execution at this stage is to gather all the available resources and use them to put the plan into practice.

The execution process involves creating budgets, programs, and policies. So, the managerial, financial, operational, and human resource goals can be achieved.

Planning Without Execution

No matter how perfectly you plan, if there is no execution, then it’s of no use. In the absence of execution, all brilliant strategies have no meaning. It is not just the plan but the action that matters most.

Planning involves crafting a careful strategy. If not executed, a well-crafted strategy is nothing but an illusion and hallucination. Exceptional execution is not just doing things; it is doing things right. Hence, without proper implementation, planning remains a theory.

Planning is about gathering the right people for the right job. Execution is making sure that the right people are performing the right jobs. So if the execution process is NOT implemented, even the right people might fail to deliver the required outcomes.

Execution Without Planning

There is a saying:

“When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Planning is vital to the execution of a process. Moreover, planning helps to identify the resources required to achieve particular goals. Effective planning allows for keeping all the concerned people on board. It also informs them about their roles and targets. How can someone even think of execution without planning?

The most crucial fact about planning is that it helps to identify what and how many resources a project needs. Hence inadequate planning can lead to a crisis in the implementation process.

Consider, for example, an organization that wants to launch a new product in the market. Here the planning involves researching the market and consumer behavior. In addition, the organization has to analyze the demand for the product in the market and ensure that it has adequate resources.

The planning phase will also involve clarifying employees’ roles in accomplishing each task and then holding them accountable. If the organization lacks proper planning and fails to identify all the mentioned steps, then the execution process will be a disaster.

The reason is that there will be no coordination among employees. Because of inadequate resource allocation, the organization might have to go through the problem of overbudgeting. Moreover, poor coordination, communication, and inadequate scheduling can never lead to achieving organizational goals.


Planning and execution are two important phases for the accomplishment of organizational goals. Both concepts are interlinked yet different. Also, both concepts are vital for the strategic success of an organization.

The difference between planning and execution is the act. Planning prepares the plan while execution transforms this plan into actions and achievements. Planning is a mental and intellectual process, while execution is the process of performing and accomplishing tasks.

Any planning without execution and execution without planning is a mess. Careful planning leads to successful execution. Planning is about selecting the right people for the right jobs, and execution ensures that the right people are doing the right jobs.