Maintaining A Strategic Focus

by Eric Wann

Everyone knows how important it is to have clear directions when traveling from one location to another. This is critical when you personally take a trip to somewhere you have never been before. It is just as critical for an organization as they are trying to reach their vision, somewhere they have never been before. 

The “directions” for the organization is its strategy. The strategy must be clear and simple enough for all of your employees to understand and to follow the path that it outlines. People can only follow when the directions are clear. 

This next series of newsletters will outline what is required for your organization to maintain a strategic focus. We will review the key points required to define the business or departmental strategy, how to communicate the strategy, and how to make sure that all of the activities performed by the organization are in line with that strategy. This section also illustrates the need of having each employee understand how critical the role they play impacts the success of the strategy and, therefore, the success of the organization. In addition, a tool will be introduced to help measure and communicate the progress being made by the organization and a chart including some ideas on celebrating that progress. 

Maintaining a strategic focus provides the tools to produce an easily understood strategic map for your organization to follow. Your employees will be able to get on and stay on the correct path that allows your organization to reach its vision. 

The strategy of an organization should always flow out of the Vision, Values, and Mission of the organization. The vision, values, and mission provide the destination, direction, and the method of transportation for the trip. The strategy provides the specific directions needed to reach the destination. Each of these components addresses a specific question that the organization and each employee need to know the answer to. 

-Vision – Where are we going?

-Values – How are we going to behave along the journey?

-Mission – What broad areas are we going to focus on?

-Strategy – What will we do to reach the destination? 

The organizational strategy should be clear and simple. Clear enough so that every employee can understand it and explain it fully to someone else, simple enough so that it can be understood within a five-minute discussion with no more supporting documentation than what can be put on a small sheet of paper. The goal is to have an overall strategy that people can easily remember and relate to, a strategy that they can use to make decisions during the course of their everyday duties. 

Each department or function should then develop its own strategy, that when accomplished, should help the overall organization be successful. Each department or function needs to concentrate its efforts in the same or similar areas as the overall strategy, but focus on them from their departments’ perspective or expertise.  

Using this approach, each area within the company has a specific strategy that flows from the overall organization strategy. If each department or function is successful in achieving its strategy, the overall organization will be successful. During the coming weeks we will examine each of these components in detail beginning with the importance of a strong and compelling vision.