ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 24
Financial Times

Strategy- Lifeline of a company or just a yawn?

Should you read this article?

Please, before reading the article, put a hand on your heart and answer the following questions thinking about your own organization:

1.Do you remember your mission and vision by heart?

2.Is someone else than top management responsible for your strategy, too?

3.Do you make all your annual and quarterly plans based on the strategic plan?

4.Can you describe your total business strategy in 100 words?

5.Is your job designed to make you accountable for long-term success?

6.Are you discussing strategy in at least 75% of your management meetings?

7.Is your newest em-ployee able to state your organizational values?

8.Does your management report tell if you are proceeding towards your vision?

9.Are leadership, teamwork and organizational style part of your strategy?

10.Would you describe your strategy as exciting, energizing and helpful? If you answered “yes”, less than eight times, it’s worth spending five minutes to read this article. For further advice or comments, do not hesitate to contact Unleash Talent INC.
Ruki - and Tomi-


It has been studied, unofficially though, that about 17% of people automatically yawn when they hear the word ‘strategy’.

For some people the word strategy is just a prehistoric relic that bears no importance in the contemporary business life. Mintzberg, Porter, Schein, Hamel – even Sun Tzu – have all dwelled on the topic of strategy for such a long time, that we don’t have to care about it anymore. For some, strategy is just a concept among the management fads.

At its best, strategy is often seen as a necessity that has to be carried out once a year: The top-management team books an expensive hotel on the outskirts of the city, loosens up the tie a notch and comes up with something… hopefully, because the hotel really was expensive and the water polo session was great.

What do you do when you reach a dead end with your strategy?

In our understanding, strategy is the lifeline of any organization – whether a business, NGO or public sector. Having an excellent strategy is a solid basis to start a journey towards victory, and feeling energized along the way. Now you might think that we are fooling you: “Hey, we do have a strategy and it didn’t help!” What to do if you are still not successful and people are not really enjoying the ride? Should you go back to the drawing board and re-write the strategy?

Let’s face it. Forming a strategy is not rocket science – unless you happen to be in that sort of a business, of course. It’s quite simple indeed: You just assess what is your current position, where you want to go and with what kind of guidelines, come up with a way to get there and then make the journey verifying the progress while you’re at it. Sounds simple, eh?

Without a doubt, most organizations have a strategy. Some even hired ridiculously expensive external help to formulate it, so that it would look nice and sound fancy. Well, guess what, this is where most managers go wrong!

We mentioned before that having a strategy is a solid basis for victorious journey. Nonetheless, solely having a strategy is not enough. You need to communicate it across the whole organization, stick to it, and energize your people with it. Certainly, it helps if you have empowered them to participate already in the strategy creation stage. Touting the CEO’s self-made wet dream for the over-worked staff is not the answer. They could not careless.

To say it explicitly: It’s about time you took more out of the individuals you have in your organization! Come on, you paid big money to get them working for you. Why not use their capacity to the fullest? By participating in the decision making process people create ownership over the plans, and feel valued. For some, having an impact and building own competency are more important than financial rewards. Consider that the next time when you are struggling in between getting your people motivated and cutting the salary costs. Moreover, by engaging people from all departments and levels of leadership you manage to get a more holistic and – well – a better plan!

We started this article with the notion that 17% of people yawn automatically when they just hear the word “strategy”. Of course that was plain ‘yak guano’, but at least we got your attention. Anyhow, you might ask “Why would any normal person be interested in strategy?” Because, at least in our opinion, strategy includes the component of organizational identity and that is something that can really boost people’s outlook on their own organization.

Having a strategy is a solid basis for a victorious journey

With identity we mean the organizational vision, mission, values and cultural traits.

A few months back while we were conducting a workshop for 95 managers from a large conglomerate, we asked the question “Who knows the group’s mission and vision?” None of them got it correct.

Often the concepts of vision and mission are mixed so we rather call them dream and purpose. We once heard a CEO say, “I don’t care about our mission that much as long as I can remember our vision even when I wake up in the middle of the night”. That could be rephrased to “I don’t care what the reason for my existence is as long as I know where I’m going”. Get it right, sooner or later. ‘Purpose,’ ‘Dream’ and ‘Value’ statements should not exist only to impress some outsiders about your linguistic skills. There is no point in describing the reason for your existence with 50 heavy words, when you forget the first 10 of them by the time you reach the end. We believe in the power of simplicity. It should be simple enough to be remembered by your office assistants when rushing through traffic on the rainy streets of Colombo.

Strategy should be on the lips of every leader, on the bulletin boards of every office, on the desktop of every laptop and as a basis for every year plan and each individual initiative. That’s why it should be simple, easy-to-understand and explained both visually and verbally.

People automatically yawn when they hear the word ‘strategy’

We believe that inspiring and empowering leadership is the key to evolutionary and revolutionary improvements in an organization. This is why we insist on leveraging on human-touch with any strategy model you should be using, utilizing leadership as a business driver to reach excellence. You need to ensure that leadership, synergistic teamwork, impact of the culture of the organization upon an individual, and capabilities of people are not overlooked even in the face of brutal financial demands.

Your business strategy should be a framework that you use everyday to breathe life into your organization.

There is no point of having a strategy if you cannot move it beyond a nice ring bound document or a flashy power point presentation.

You need to hardwire your strategy in to your organizational design. Your reporting should tell you that your strategies are in motion rather than churning out stacks of unnecessary data that you cannot use… or worse yet, data that holds you back in purely operational decision making. If you cannot communicate your strategy and control it on one A4 paper, it’s time to rethink!

If you want to prevent your file cabinet from gathering dust, you might use your company’s strategy for that matter. However, there are more powerful tools – like dusters and vacuum cleaners – for that purpose. Those who see strategy as a learning process, and those who use it wisely as a management tool, will please their customers, will beat their competition, will make the office a better place to work, will gather above average profits and will make the dreams come true.

(The youthful facileaders of Unleash Talent INC - Ruki and Tomi - are using their experience and funky approach to help people and organizations to unleash true potential and live with inspiration. If you are willing to run an extra mile and make an extra smile, they are able to facilitate your strategic readiness to the level described in the article).

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.