Step 4 – your strategic plan’s 4 qualifiers

basic diagram strategyVision for your company or organization is singular and focused. Once it is defined and stated, we work backwards. It’s better not to have a vision, never post a vision statement, than to have one posted and do nothing about it or to persist in activities that have no VISIBLE and RECOGNIZABLE connection to it.

The vision spawns strategic planning.

It may seem redundant but let’s look at Lowe’s vision once again:

We will provide customer-valued solutions with the best prices, products, and services to make Lowe’s the first choice for home improvement.

It’s succinct, focused, relevant to the industry, attainable, and noble sounding. It also gives a target for which effective strategies and tactics can be developed to further progress towards it.

Strategies have these four qualifiers:

  1. Strategies vary from place to place and from time to time. The vision is carved in stone, so to speak. It, the vision statement, should not be altered significantly and absolutely should not be changed from time to time. To do so is to foolishly introduce confusion and frustration into your company or organization.  Those associates who work for you will buy in to the vision but they do not have unlimited resources to keep buying in to a new vision every other month.
  2. Because the pursuit of overall objectives is the privilege and responsibility of leaders, strategies usually originate from them too. But not always! Correlate this with your leadership skills and need to extend your reach. You will need to employ (pun intended) others to help you. They will have ideas as well. The more they are informed about the company’s vision and the more experience they have the more they can offer. This does not neutralize your responsibility to know what to do and why it should be done. Principle #2 in my book “3 Skills of Effective Leadership” is knowing what to do next.
  3. A strategy is only an expedient, a means to an end, and is therefore expendable. They can, and should, be altered to fit present conditions and circumstances. Ask Blockbuster what happened to their strategies? Best Buy, on the other hand, seems to be making something of a comeback based on altered strategies and tactics to fit a changing market.
  4. All strategies as subject to unforeseen events and the independent will of the competition. They never survive contact with the real world without some modification. Don’t hold them with the same reverence you do your vision. The vision is paramount. Nothing else is.

Next we begin to tackle the subject of tactics – how to implement strategies and progress towards the vision.


7 Steps You Need to Take to Develop a Strategic Plan…And You’ve Already Done One of Them

7stepsI had been hired by the tourism department of a large Native American Tribal government to help them develop a strategic plan. They had a largish budget and had raised the visibility of tribal lands and attractions but there was no rhyme or reason. They engaged public relations firms and bought airtimes and ads on whims.

So we met and for the period of two days we worked through the process of developing some systematic strategy for reaching the department’s objectives, for marching toward the vision. As the intervention concluded, a follow up meeting was scheduled. The participants then retreated to their respective offices.

At the follow-up meeting I discovered that no one had retreated to their office or cubicle to work on plans or schedules to implement the strategic plan. No, indeed. They had retreated there to write a report on our meeting. The scheduled follow-up meeting was the occasion to discuss the reports written about the previous meeting. Their forward movement had become a backward look. I wish I could report that the follow-up rehashing of the previous meeting was a one-off event, but it wasn’t. It seems they preferred reports over action, a paralysis that afflicts many organizations.

Strategic plans are a bit like vision statements. They tend to get momentary hype and visibility then die a slow death in someone’s file cabinet. Look at W.T. Grant, Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken, or Branff Airlines. All three companies are gone and, at the time of their demise, all three had 3 common factors – they didn’t manage the company strategy, the corporate organizational policy did not function, and they perpetuated failure until it was completely fatal.

Contrast that with IBM which has undergone considerable transformation since its beginning as a business machines company. General Electric, Xerox, Mazda, and IBM all share the opposite 3 factors – effectively managed strategic planning, a corporate organizational policy that works, and success.

There are 7 steps for developing your strategic plan…and you’ve already done the first one (or at least you should have by now).

  1. Develop your vision statement.
  2. Develop and define your values.
  3. Examine and assess your situation.
  4. Develop and define goals.
  5. Develop, define, and schedule objectives (they are not the same as goals as I will explain).
  6. Develop the devices, systems, processes, and methods for achieving objectives and reaching goals.
  7. Develop and implement a feedback loop to systematically  evaluate progress, highlight problems, and implement solutions

See there, nothing exotic or excruciating. You’ve already done the first one because I’ve been discussing it for several days. I’ll begin with Step #2 on Thursday.

Think strategically, act deliberately



The vision you and/or your company or organization have articulated sets up the target. How you get there is up to those in positions of leadership and management. However, it is not entirely up to you. It requires the agreement, cooperation, and participation of everyone.

The vision will not create itself. What is done today directly impacts what happens later.

-Colonel Bruce B.G. Clarke, in his paper “Strategic Vision,” delivered at the Carlisle Barracks: U.S. Army War College, 1994, wrote that:

“Strategic Vision is a mental image of what the future world ought to be like. (The prophet’s view). Development of a strategic vision is preceded by forecasting the actual, matter of fact, realistic and pragmatic future to create an estimate of what the future is likely to be. In doing this, the strategist looks at history, the current situation, and trends. Strategy is the crossover mechanism for moving from the world as forecasted to the world of our vision. Strategic vision provides direction to both the formulation and execution of strategy. It makes strategy proactive, rather than reactive, about the future.”

 Note the last sentence. “It makes strategy proactive, rather than reactive, about the future.” It is not a wait and see what happens approach. Not at all! It demands that we as leaders take the initiative and develop over-arching plans that will move us, the company, and/or our department toward that vision we’ve so carefully articulated and so fervently embrace.

 Proactivity reigns over reactivity. The military often admonishes that “hope is not a valid strategy.”

 So what is?

 Think strategically but act deliberately.

 Jack Welch, former head of General Electric said that,  A strategy is something like, an innovative new product; globalization, taking your products around the world; be the low-cost producer. A strategy is something you can touch; you can motivate people with; be number one and number two in every business. You can energize people around the message.

 If you haven’t done so already, begin to see your role from a military perspective. You have an objective of what your world will be like when you win the war. Now, how are you going to win it?

 Simply lobbing shells out there somewhere or throwing soldiers at the public is not nearly enough. Neither will positive thinking slogans work. To do so is to substitute hope for strategy.

 It takes far more careful consideration of how to win the battle which should be done…and redone…and redone as time passes. But no action should be initiated nor should it be maintained in the “hope” that somehow someway it will get you to the goal.

 Leadership is a proactive responsibility. I am going to guess that too many who read this are, when they examine their daily tasks, reactive. They go from one problem to another, solving one crisis after another, and putting out fires. The question is, does it make sense? Does it mesh with the overall strategies you’ve enacted? Solving problems can be good if those problems have arisen in the hand to hand combat of daily implementation of your strategic plan. But solving problems can be bad if those problems have not arisen from the tasks (Tactics) used to implement a strategy. If that’s the case, you’re living in the fantasy world of hope. Short-terms thinkers think and work by what rises and falls each day. Long-term strategizers deal with incidents as they arise but they maintain perspective. They know which targets to shoot at and which to leave alone.

 Think strategically. Act deliberately.