Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Strategy is “Like” a Theme Song

Can you hum the theme song for Hawaii Five-O?  How about Mission Impossible?  I bet you can and, if you can whistle, I’ll also bet that you can whistle the tune to The Andy Griffith Show.

Can the people in your organization explain your strategy as effortlessly as they can hum the  Hawaii Five-O theme song?  I suggest that should be your goal.  And when they explain it, you don’t want them to discuss the details of plans and goals for each quarter during the next three years.  Your goal should be much simpler than that – they should be able to explain your general “strategic themes.”

People in most organizations – in all sectors – cannot simply explain their strategy.  This was pointed out in an article in Harvard Business Review a couple years ago:

“Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented.  They assume that the initiatives described in the voluminous documentation that emerges from a strategic planning process will ensure success.  They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices.”*

Your “strategic themes” should be distinctive and clear.  You develop them by first focusing on your vision and strategic goals for the coming years.  Then you look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Your “strategic themes” are a general explanation of how you are going to Leverage your Strengths, Fortify your Weaknesses, Seize your Opportunities, and Block your Threats – as you pursue your goals and your vision.

Explain your “strategic themes” in such a clear way that everyone would recognize it as quickly as they would the Hawaii Five-O theme song.  And make it so distinctive that they could tell if someone suggests actions that are not consistent with the strategy.  You want them to be able to tell the difference between what your strategy is and is not as easily as they can tell the difference between the theme song to Mission Impossible and Hawaii Five-O.

Making sure that everyone understands your strategy will help create better coordinated action, consistent decision-making, and increased Mission Impact.

*“Can You Say What Your Strategy Is,”  Harvard Business Review, Collins & Rukstad, April 2008.  

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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