I completely agree that execution and a culture of effective execution make a huge difference, but the “visionary” strategic stuff gets written about.
But is there a distinction to be made here between high-level strategy/direction vs. mid-level planning and low-level execution? It’s hard for me to imagine that senior leadership of a company w/ > 50 people just rubber stamps ideas from below.
For example, senior leadership might say, “this year we’re going to grow fruit” and they may accept proposals from below for bananas or oranges or apples. But they wouldn’t accept proposals to manufacture cars.
For sure, different companies have different gradations of freedom for mid to lower level employees to engage in decision-making and planning, but it’s always a slider and upper level leadership would always hold tightly to the top end of the slider, no?
You’re right—the reason they review it at all is to retain the power to reject unreasonable proposals (and sometimes to make slight tweaks based on information only they possess). Sometimes they make the goals more ambitious, too.
90% of the time, though (and 100% of the time in my company’s short existence), the proposals coming from below are almost exactly what they wanted—the communication outside of strategic planning exercises is sufficient to ensure that.