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When did strategy become so hard?

Having recently conducted a number of sessions on strategy, it’s become obvious that businesses are losing sight of objectives. Recently when I asked a client to highlight their strategy a 15 minute conversation ensued where amorphous goals, vision, mission statements and other non discreet sentences were abound with no reference to how these visions were going to be achieved.

A cat looking at a window

The net result of this was that the people in the room had no idea what their strategy was. The thing is, strategy is not difficult and we all do it every day. In essence a strategic plan, strategic imperative or a strategic whatever is really just a posh way of saying actions to be taken. The trouble comes when the objectives or the goals have not been clearly defined and communicated so that strategy initiatives have no real idea of what they are trying to support. The downside of all of this is the fact that businesses large and small can end up chasing their tails because they don’t really want to make a decision, something that currently Brexit brings into stark contrast.

So what is the best thing to do?

"Clearly define some goals and then create an action plan to achieve this"

First throw away the thesaurus, stop worrying about buzz word bingo and take an honest look at where you currently are. Clearly define some goals and then create an action plan to achieve this and the most important thing is to be flexible and aware of your environment changes resulting in the goals and strategy being updated.

History is littered with corporations, large and small, who have played the buzzword bingo vision and mission statement game but never actually set any true goals or plans of how to get there. For this we can look at GE, Enron, Woolworths and currently in the UK John Lewis or Blockbuster.

In consequence if you ask what is our strategy or five year goals and you get a long debate or wordy answer with lots of buzzword bingo points and lots of vision, mission, value and leadership phrases coming up you know you have a significant amount of work to do on your strategy.

There is a fantastic book called “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” by Richard P Rumelt, which really cuts through all the fluff and I highly recommend that everyone reads it.


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