Monday, April 20, 2015

Clearly Defined Strategy = Direction

An article that really spoke to me this week was, “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” which brings to light a serious problem many firms face that should be a “no brainer.” A key takeaway from this article was that it is important to have a clear succinct strategy that is articulated and known throughout the firm so that the entire organization understands it and can implement it. Without this, many organizations do not succeed and their strategy is not implemented.

The article emphasized that every person in the firm should know the strategy of an organization. This is important so that that every person can work towards it and are working in the same direction. Examples were used of companies whose leaders could not even define their company’s strategy. If a leader does not know the strategy, there is no way lower members of an organization will know it. Though this almost seems like common sense I think it can be easy to forget or skim over defining a strategy because of the day-to-day workload.

I have seen first hand the difference that can be made of emphasizing a strategy throughout a whole company. My old company BlackRock had a clearly articulated strategy that was taught and re-taught during every employee’s onboarding and training. They reiterated the goals so much I could say them in my sleep. I knew all the “4 pillars” of the organization and how the company was working towards it.  In fact, when I was asked to write my year goals or year-end review I had to include a portion on how I was working towards each of these pillars or strategies. Because of this, every person in the firm was working in the same direction even though the company was so large.

I think organizations sometimes lose sight of their strategy and are consumed by other aspects of their organization. I think an example of this is the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Though many people believe that are practicing activism or working towards a movement by posting the hashtag, there doesn’t seem to be a clear goal or deliverable or strategy. When you go on the #BlackLivesMatter website there are 4 or 5 goals mentioned, however none of them seems measurable and others are vague. I bet if you asked a majority of the people who advocate for #BlackLivesMatter what the strategy of the movement is, you would get many different answers. I think that this movement may fizzle because there is not a clear strategy.

A way to mitigate this problem is to establish the strategy during the formation of an organization and reevaluate that strategy at the beginning of each year. Leaders of an organization should set aside time to clearly define the direction they would like the organization to move. Though some organizations may find this mundane or time consuming, it may be a key to making their organization succeed. Once this strategy is established, a company should make efforts to ensure that all members know what that strategy is and find ways to work in that direction.

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