Our Master Trainer, Alan Elder, critiques this article in Harvard Business Review
about strategy. It is well worth sharing with readers of this blog.
The premise is if you can't articulate your strategy in less than 35 words and have others articulate it in basically the same way then execution will not happen. In addition, the emphasis is on ONE strategy only. If you have the ONE strategy, and tell everyone about it then you can execute.
First of all, I disagree with the premise. I don't think it's about having a short "Strategy" that everyone knows that is killing execution. I think it's one part of strategy; mission. I don't think most people know the grand strategy of the Boy Scouts and they seem to be doing fine. But, they do know the "spiritual" level mission. The conversation we have to start when we are positioned to own it is the concept of many strategies supporting each other. But, this is impossible as long as we continue to preach that strategy is only for a select group of executives. This is no different than the TQM movement. It started out with the concept that quality is the job of quality professionals. It never worked. Today, more and more, organizations realize quality is everyone's job. So is strategy.
This is the last sentence of the article that means the most for us:
"The strategy will really have traction only when executives can be confident that the actions of empowered frontline employees will be guided by the same principles that they themselves follow."
However, the entire article denies any of these people from developing their own strategies.
Here is another interesting quote:
"In an astonishing number of organizations, executives, frontline employees, and all those in between are frustrated because no clear strategy exists for the company or its lines of business. The kinds of complaints that abound in such firms include:
â€¢ â€œI try for months to get an initiative off the ground, and then it is shut down because â€˜it doesn't fit the strategy.â€™ Why didn't anyone tell me that at the beginning?â€
â€¢ â€œI donâ€™ know whether I should be pursuing this market opportunity. I get mixed signals from the powers that be.â€
â€¢ â€œWhy are we bidding on this customerâ€™s business again? We lost it last year, and I thought we agreed then not to waste our time chasing the contract!â€
â€¢ â€œShould I cut the price for this customer? I donâ€™ know if we would be better off winning the deal at a lower price or just losing the business.â€
This is relevant to all of us. Notice the wording.
Obviously this is a matter of communicating strategy at different levels. The mistake I see (and it could be due to my crack pipe) is assuming there is ONE strategy everyone has to learn. The CEO has a strategy. Marketing has its own strategy. The sales team has their own strategy. It's not about having one strategy everyone knows. It's about everyone having a strategy that fits together. I can't begin to imagine the difficulty of decision-making if everyone has the same strategy.
This article also seems to mix campaigns with strategy.
Throughout the entire article it talks about the ONE strategy and in the last paragraph is states:
"Cascading the statement throughout the organization, so that each level of management will be the teacher for the level below, becomes the starting point for incorporating strategy into everyoneâ€™s behavior."