One of our largest and longest-term clients is a family-owned-and-operated manufacturing company based in Alberta. This highly complex organization is a pioneer and leader within its industry. Over the last few years, they have transformed into a highly strategic organization.
A few weeks ago, their CEO brought his son into the office. His son, currently studying business at university, asked his dad about what is required to achieve strategic success. His dad, the CEO of this 1200 employee organization with offices across the country, held up a single piece of paper. On that one page was the entire strategy of the organization – Vision and Mission, enterprise goals, strategic imperatives, and tactics. The complex strategy of this multi-faceted organization had been simplified onto a single page.
He then walked his son through not only the specifics of the strategy but the complex interconnectivities of the plan. For example, if Operations isn’t lockstep with IT, their efficiency will be compromised. If Marketing isn’t positioned as a key decision-maker, the Sales team will operate in isolation. All of this, and more, was called out in the one-page strategy.
This may seem like an innocuous story – the CEO speaking fluently about the strategy of his organization is not exactly newsworthy. This group, however, takes things one step further.
Their magic is not in the CEO’s ability to talk about the strategy. Their magic is the ability of everyone in the organization to understand, embrace, and talk about the strategy. This, as with any organization, is what creates strategic excellence. This didn’t happen overnight, and it certainly didn’t happen by accident. This was the culmination of a lot of hard work.
In a strategic capacity, the role of leadership is to simplify the complex. After all, the point of any strategy is to execute a series of distinct tactics in pursuit of the desired outcome – often an articulation of success. The more concise the strategy is, the better chance it will be understood and implemented properly.
Understanding the landscape, aligning around the vision of your organization, creating a strategy informed by the perspectives of your team, and creating the conditions for execution are all components of a larger process designed to create a simple, yet dynamic and actionable strategy. This process, however, is easier understood than executed.
Many organizations lack both the will and skill to engage in a disciplined strategic process. Often, day-to-day priorities take precedence. Over time, this focus on short-term priorities becomes the norm and a focus on the future gets sidelined. Years later, these same organizations are the ones who trail behind their competitors – the same competitors who had previously dedicated time to creating an organizational plan.
The creation of strategy is often not complicated, but it is hard work. It requires dedication and a commitment to do things differently.
Simply put, what we’re talking about is a process to follow and a mindset to embrace. In other words, Strategy and Leadership.
Published by Jordan Orr