Vision, Strategy and Bad Strategy: 5 tips

Too many organizational leaders say they have a strategy when they do not. Instead, they espouse what I call “bad strategy.” Bad strategy ignores the power of choice and focus, trying instead to accommodate a multitude of conflicting demands and interests. Like a quarterback whose only advice to his teammates is “let’s win,” bad strategy covers up its failure to guide by embracing the language of broad goals, ambition, vision, and values. Each of these elements is, of course, an important part of human life. But, by themselves, they are not substitutes for the hard work of strategy.

Richard Rumel, McKinsey Quarterly, The perils of bad strategy

Common Dilemmas around Vision and Strategy

Carla the CEO says: “I know I need a vision but I can’t seem to understand what a vision actually is.”

“I have read a lot of terms like mission, purpose, values, strategic intent, but no one has never given me a satisfactory, clear explanation of what a vision is and what actionable directions it gives me” adds Josh the VP od Sales

On the other hand, Gina, the marketing communication specialist, knows very well what her company vision is. “It’s on my cubicle wall. But how does it actually guide my work?” she says puzzled.

The very assertive Frank the CEO complains: “I do have a Great Vision, but they don’t get it. I’ve given them a memo with all the details. What’s wrong with them?”

Alvin, the sales engineer who travels all week-long, goes: “What? Vision? Again with that BS? You had another of those fancy marketing books for breakfast this morning, didn’t you?  Leave me alone, please. I’ve got work to do, at least I do!”

Vision and Strategy at work

What is a “vision” then?

It is a destination. A desirable business end-state for an organization. It’s about knowing where you want to go. And, where you don’t want to go.

It’s NOT what you want to “do”.

It’s not the “how

It’s the “where

And,  what’s a Strategy then?

It’s the path to get to that destination. How you will get there.

In other words:

  • Strategy: Sounds great! But… to go where? …“I have a map but I don’t know where to go”
  • Vision: We have one! But… how do we get there?   …”I know my destination, now I need a map!”

“If a company does not have a vision of where it wants to go, then any product strategy is likely to take it somewhere. But will they be happy with somewhere when it gets there?”

Michael McGrath

“I can always plan to operate in full market-driven mode, tuning my offering for an army of buyers that want my product or service, using the latest social media and content marketing strategies. But, how can I do that without a Company Vision and a Strategy that oversees the business and guides me there?”

Donato Mangialardo, Director of Product Strategy

5 Tips – Using Vision and Strategy for guiding everything you do

Tip#1 – You need to have both. They need to be fully aligned to provide guidance and focus. As a Top Manager, you want to make sure they are always, consistently aligned.

Tip#2 – The Vision must be extremely clear. It needs to provide focus. What is in scope, what is NOT. What is success like. Ambiguity brings individual interpretations.

Tip#3 – Strategy means what do we intend to do in order to achieve the goals expressed by the Vision. What should we NOT do.  Again, conciseness  and clarity are  a must. Everybody needs to remember it and apply it.

Tip #4 – Establish a Strategy by looking at your distinctive competences, but also acknowledge the challenges your organization faces, including inconvenient truths. Provide an approach to overcoming them.

Tip #5 – Put together Vision, Strategy and Why your organization believes it can be successful in a coherent, 3-sections statement that fits in a page.  It is a difficult exercise, but it works like a charm if well done.

(I see these more as Rules than Tips actually)

Conclusion: Align your business and your teams to understand what is and how to reach your business destination, the Vision you have set for your organization.  What’s the Strategy. This will provide focus, facilitating decisions and avoiding debates of opinions. As a byproduct, it will increase motivation and engagement in your teams.

Then, if you ask yourself …

  • “Right, but… do we have an actionable vision?”
  • “How do we get there?”
  • “Do we have a clear strategy?”
  • “Will we be able to follow that strategy?
  • “What changes will be required?”
  • “Is my company ready?”
  • “How do I know if I have set the right Vision and the right Strategy for my business?”
  • “How do I actually align them?”
  • “How do I know whether I have factored-in all the variables?”

…Then (note, this is a Self-Promoting paragraph) you want to consider investing in this  effective exercise that will direct your business to repeatable wins and eventually success.This is one of the things I like to do the most in my profession at crystal-ize.com, with a solid, proven methodology drawn from a specific experience in International, US-based and Italian companies of various business models and size.

I am sure you may have questions: please leave your comment. I will surely reply and assist your cause.

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