Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Planning → Planning executability → Execution: Why is this process important for return-driven firms? [Tuesdays: Return Driven Strategy]

November 8, 2022

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson

As a business leader and builder, one of the frameworks I truly find effective is Return Driven Strategy (RDS). 

This pyramid-shaped framework has 11 tenets and 3 foundations, which, when applied properly, can help firms ethically achieve true wealth and value creation. 

Professor Joel Litman and Dr. Mark L. Frigo talk about this strategy in detail in the book, “Driven.” 

In this article, let’s focus on RDS’ Tenet 4—Deliver Offerings—and a business case study related to it. 

Keep reading below to know some lessons you can learn from this toy company’s downfall. 

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Return Driven Strategy 

In a past “Return Driven Strategy” article, we talked about toy company Toys R Us and some factors that led to its downfall in the lens of RDS’ Tenet 2: Fulfill Otherwise Unmet Customer Needs

There, we explained that in reality, pricing pressure comes from customers, not competitors. This means weaker-than-desired performance doesn’t come from an external competitive force but from an internal force. 

In Toys R Us’ case, the problem is in its inability to fulfill its target market’s needs. 

Today, we’ll dive deeper into the toy company’s case study, but instead of looking at it from the perspective of RDS’ Tenet 2, we’ll discuss it in the context of Tenet 4: Deliver Offerings

Photo from Retail Customer Experience

RDS’ Tenet 4 is about delivering offerings through the RIGHT planning and execution

… and according to Professor Joel Litman and Dr. Mark L. Frigo in the book, “Driven,” these two processes shouldn’t be considered as distinctly separate concepts. Otherwise, firms will miss out on the importance of the continuum of strategic planning and execution. 

Let’s go back to Toys R Us’ case study… 

For almost 20 years straight, the toy company experienced a decline in cash flow returns. It tried creating new plans and strategies to recover, but some of these are glaring examples of failure to fill the gap between successful planning and implementation. 


In the 1990s, when Toys R Us realized the Internet and World Wide Web would be a dominant force in retail, it began to plan an online presence: www.toysrus.com. At first glance, this strategy made sense. 

Competitive analysis showed that the toy company had a powerful brand that would be strongly recognized whether offline or online. It also had warehouses full of ready-to-be-sold inventory, its purchasing capability for restocking shelves was strong, and all necessary toy manufacturer relationships had already been established. 

These are some things a new toy company simply couldn’t replicate or beat in just a short while. 

So… where did Toys R Us go wrong? 

It failed to plan executability, the concept that occupies the space between planning and implementation. 

Here’s what happened to the toy company as a result of the misstep: 

Toysrus.com succeeded in generating high online sales. The site attracted millions of visitors who bought toys online before the Christmas holiday. However, what happened was a complete disaster! 

Before launching the online store, Toys R Us failed to determine whether or not its warehouses were capable of pick-and-pack shipping methods. It didn’t realize that the inventory management system at the warehouses were only designed to ship large pallets of toys at a time to be displayed at store shelves. 

For instance: Loading a crate of Barbie dolls into a truck is different from picking up just one Barbie doll and packaging it with 3 or 4 other individually picked toys to be sent to a buyer’s address. 

Because of that, Toys R Us disappointed thousands of customers and failed to deliver the promised toys to buyers by Christmas time. 

What’s worse? 

Staff also experienced havoc at physical stores as angry customers went to express their online-generated grievances! Some even swore they would never buy from Toys R Us again, whether online or physically at the store. 

The Importance of Planning Executability 

Could Toys R Us’ online failure be attributed to poor strategy or poor execution? The answer is not in these two choices. 

Many of the toy company’s problems in the implementation could have been avoided if executability was given ample attention during the strategic planning process. 

The important point Toys R Us missed? 

In the continuum of planning and execution, there should be planning of implementation

Most firms are known for having “beta” launches before the official release of a product. The purpose of this is to make sure the execution of a particular strategy is plausible and reasonable before widely implementing it. 

At what point or level should a plant floor manager at Toys R Us have realized that its warehouses were not designed for a pick-and-pack inventory management system? 

Ideally, it should have been at some earlier stage than when it was already too late. 

Besides, if a manager had to choose, angering a small set of customers during test launches is better than angering a large group of them during official launches. This is why planning executability is a crucial part of strategic planning, with RDS’ Tenets 1 to 3 as primary goals of that planning process. 

We hope you find today’s return-driven insights helpful! 

High-performing businesses know the importance of planning, planning of implementation, and implementation. This enables them to come up with a sound strategy, execute it effectively, and deliver the RIGHT offerings to their customers. 

Take note of these important processes in achieving RDS’ Tenet 4! 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Return Driven Strategy”

In the book, “Driven,” authors Professor Joel Litman and Dr. Mark L. Frigo said that the goal of every long-term successful business strategy should incorporate the combined necessity of “making the world a better place” and “getting wealthy.” 

That is why they created Return Driven Strategy and Career Driven Strategy―frameworks that were built to help leaders and professionals plan and evaluate businesses so they can also help others achieve their organizational goals and career goals. 

The frameworks describe the plans and actions that drive returns for anyone in an organization such as independent contractors, marketers, brand managers, communicators, and other people in any field. These actions lead to the creation of wealth and value for customers, employees, shareholders, and the society. 

Every Tuesday, we’ll highlight case studies, business strategies, tips, and insights related to Return Driven Strategy and Career Driven Strategy. 

In planning, building, or managing brands and businesses, these strategies, case studies, and guidelines will help you choose what specific actions to take and when to take them. 

Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Return Driven Strategy!”


Kyle Yu 

Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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