Strategy is probably the single most talked about area of business. Academics like Michael Porter and Roger Martin have made their careers writing and consulting on business strategy. Numerous consulting firms are happy to charge a hefty fee to prepare lengthy PowerPoints to capture all aspects of your strategy.
As CEO, you own the strategy for the organization. It is critically important to select the right one. But, in my experience, the problem in most organizations is not that they have a bad strategy but that they haven’t communicated their strategy to the employees in a way that can be effectively implemented.
Often, I see CEOs talking about strategy in a way that is completely unintelligible to their average employee. The challenge for the CEO is learning how to present the strategy so that it impacts the front-line workers who are doing most of the actual work. If your strategy does not change how these people do their jobs then you haven’t implemented your strategy.
The two keys to effectively communicating your strategy are clarity and brevity. I have developed a one-page strategic overview that enforces both clarity and brevity.
MISSION, VISION, AND VALUES
The one-page plan starts with a clear mission and vision for your organization. The Mission is a simple one sentence answer to the question why the organization exists. Take Tesla, for example: Their mission statement is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” These eight words do an incredible amount of work for the company. They tie the people who work at Tesla to a higher purpose, they are not just making cars. It also helps them attract employees who are part of the same “tribe” and highly motivated toward the mission. Having employees that have bought into your company’s mission is the only way to deliver exceptional performance.
Next comes Vision which is how the world will be different because you are executing on your mission. Amazon’s Vision says “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Find and discover anything they might want to buy online. Those are powerful words that provide a clear direction for every Amazon employee.
Next come the company Values. Getting these right can be tough because you’ll want a set of values that every employee will remember and act on. Many companies choose values that are so generic and expected that they don’t differentiate you. Of course, everyone expects honesty, integrity, quality, etc. However, none of these values are likely to cause anyone in your organization to act differently or help someone choose your organization over another. Two examples of values that guide decisions are risk-taking or consistency. These values help everyone understand the tradeoffs the organization must make to differentiate itself and be successful in a competitive market.
DEVELOPING YOUR STRATEGIC OVERVIEW
To develop the strategic overview, a set of clearly defined goals is needed to look out over a 2-3 year period. These objectives are the fundamental outputs of the strategy process. If the strategy is executed successfully, what tangible outcomes will be attained in each functional area of the business?
Start with the two triangles of tension that every CEO must manage: the external tension exists between shareholders, customers, and employees, and the internal tension exists between sales, marketing, and product (or service). Using these six areas ask the question: what is the most important thing we need to accomplish in each of these areas in the next two years? Agreeing on those goals with clear, objective measurements provides a roadmap for the entire organization. Every six months, review those strategic objectives and update and extend them so that you always have strategic goals that are 2-3 years in the future.
All of this information can be captured on one page and kept in front of every employee. I like to laminate this page and put it on every employee’s desk so that they are constantly reminded of the company strategy and objectives. Download an example here.