Successful business strategy is the outworking of vision, extraordinary vision. Ken Blanchard has summed up the issue well in his classic anthological work, Leading at a Higher Level:
The biggest impediment blocking most managers from being great leaders is the lack of a clear vision for them to serve. In fewer than 10 percent of the organizations we have visited were members clear about the vision. This lack of shared vision causes people to become inundated with multiple priorities, duplication of efforts, false starts, and wasted energy—none of which supports the triple bottom line.
A vision builds trust, collaboration, interdependence, motivation, and mutual responsibility for success. Vision helps people make smart choices, because their decisions are being made with the end result in mind. As goals are accomplished, the answer to “What next?” becomes clear. Vision allows us to act from a proactive stance, moving toward what we want rather than reactively away from what we don’t want. Vision empowers and excites us to reach for what we truly desire. As the late management guru Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
While it is optimal for a firm to have a solidly outlined mission, vision and values, even these components moderately outlined is better than to have none. Furthermore it is important for such guiding principles to be outlined in simple, yet substantive terms. I worked in a finance department where we were instructed to memorize the mission of the organization, or at least have it handy. The impact of the initial, mission-oriented words was emphatically clear, and made an impression on the hearer. These are the origins of strategic planning. A roadmap is great, but this finds little traction in business if you are headed somewhere dull, boring, or worse, no different from anyone else in a crowded, highly competitive playing field. So although it is important to adopt a strategy as a guide, the qualitative value of that strategy is absolutely imperative to an organization’s success.
In the ongoing study of business strategy, I would hasten to say that it is equally important to apply strategy, as it is to study it. Or to put another way, the study of strategy must incorporate the components of applicable, realistic modeling or it is nothing more than a pedantic exercise. This is where measurable feedback and evaluation becomes critical in our ongoing consideration of organizational strategy. Direct, measurable consequences in the form of financial results, investor response, and customer satisfaction are all relevant considerations that should be evaluated for ongoing effectiveness. Otherwise, thinking and talking about business strategy would exist in a vacuum and would be pointless.
Blanchard, Ken (2009). Leading at a Higher Level, Revised and Expanded Edition: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations. Pearson Education (US). Kindle Edition.