Every organization has a strategy. Not every organization has a powerful strategy. What is a powerful strategy? One that has the necessary power to guide an organization to victory. Powerful strategy and winning results go together.
There is not one “right” way to develop and manage your strategy, but you can evaluate any strategy by its effectiveness in doing two jobs: 1) making a clear, strong case for how your organization will win in the future, and 2) empowering and mobilizing your organization to win.
2 TESTS OF POWERFUL STRATEGY:
- Is it making a clear, strong case for how your organization will win in the future?
- Is it empowering and mobilizing your organization to win?
If your strategy isn’t doing both jobs right now, it’s not as powerful as it could be. Why does this matter?
Because pound for pound, your strategy is the most potent piece of logic in your entire organization. Apart from it, there is no other very effective mechanism by which an organization can unify, motivate, and liberate its workforce to move forward purposefully and productively. Your strategy’s very first job is to define your organization’s narrative—its past, present, and most importantly, its future. Its second job is to mobilize your organization to deliver results within that narrative.
Since “strategy” is used very broadly and can become a very academic concept, let me describe what I think is the most helpful definition of strategy. Strategy is the thread of logic that ties your purpose to your future and mobilizes your organization to achieve that future. It brings into alignment the things that don’t change, like a company’s purpose and values, with the things that do change: big goals, the business model, structure, governance patterns, and intended outcomes. Strategy works outward from the organization’s core purpose all the way through to the products and services it provides customers.
“Pound for pound, your strategy is the most potent piece of logic in your entire organization. Apart from it, there is no other very effective mechanism by which an organization can unify, motivate, and liberate its workforce to move forward purposefully and productively.”
A Common Substitute For Strategic Planning
Before I describe the process we use to build a powerful strategy, I should distinguish strategic planning from a far less dynamic alternative I often see substituted in its place, which I’ll call “maintenance planning”. Just because we engage in regular planning activities doesn’t mean we’re strategic planning. Keeping the lights, integrating tools, systems, and data all take some level of coordination, but the outcome of all this is typically some form of preserving status quo operations and mindsets. Like a ship at sea, leaks may still need to be patched, pipes flushed, and floors scrubbed–but none of these activities have anything to do with where the ship is going. None of these change the status quo.
If leaders are not attentive to developing a robust strategic planning for the organization, maintenance planning can quietly slip in as a cheaper substitute. When this happens, it makes organizations and teams complacent and more vulnerable to change, often perpetuating a vicious cycle of operational “fire-fighting” and reactive thinking. This, in turn, causes burn-out, drives away top talent, and diminishes profit margins.
Taking A Fresh Look At Strategic Planning
For these and many other reasons, it is worth installing a powerful and truly strategic planning process within your organization that keeps the focus on your strategy’s two big jobs: 1) making a clear, strong case for how your organization will win in the future, and 2) effectively empowering and mobilizing your organization to win.
In Part 2 of this article, I will share the building blocks of our strategic planning process, which we use to evaluate an organization’s strategy and help them fill in the essential gaps.
Joe is the founder of Edifiers Consulting. He has helped companies in cybersecurity, software, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, and others create clarity in their strategy and prepare their teams to win.
We are a management consulting firm based in El Paso, Texas, with a talent network across San Diego, Denver, and Dallas. We specialize in helping leaders drive awesome projects, streamline processes, and build stronger teams. We empower people, technology, and data to turn business goals into real results.
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