Business Strategy - Why, What, Who, and How

Keeping an organization of any size productive requires clear direction, otherwise the activity is aimless and without purpose - resulting in wasted or duplicated efforts. This direction starts with a clear articulation of the business focus and strategy.

A clear business strategy should have four elements: 

  • a vision asserting “why” the strategy exists, 

  • objectives defining “what” is intended to be accomplished, 

  • clarification of “who” needs to participate, 

  • and anticipated results stating “how” the goals will be measured and achieved.

Why

Mission, vision, and values are generally well described, but poorly understood across the organization - largely because they fail to affect the day-to-day activities of work to be performed. However, when the work activities align, these instruments become powerful motivators and facilitators of success.

Mission statements generally articulate the why of the business. That is, why the business exists, the markets to be served, and the needs of the individuals served by the company’s products and services. Vision then asserts the future that the organization wishes to attain; aligning and reinforcing the mission of the business. And values define the beliefs which motivate and define how the organization acts upon the aforementioned mission and vision.

What

Objectives provide greater specificity to what needs to occur to achieve the vision. They, as originally noted by Andy Grove, should answer two questions: “Where do I want to go?” and “How will I know I’m there?”

Objectives should be difficult, but achievable; clear and understandable, and when possible, inspirational in their outcomes. As a result, objectives tend to be somewhat personal, as they direct the day-to-day activities of the individual. As such, they are the incarnation of the company’s mission and values; transforming them from a concept on someone’s desk or screensaver, to a daily guide.

Who

Clarity of responsibility is critical for any successful strategy. Generally, no single individual can accomplish these objectives alone, so ideally objectives are those shared by the team or organization, with results captured at the enterprise or business unit.

How

A key component of objectives (or goals) are measures which provide specificity and help ensure the objective is actionable. This also becomes a proxy to determine progress against the defined objectives - typically within a specified timeframe. Importantly, these should describe the outcome expected to be achieved.


And most importantly, the strategy should focus on the people who are critical to the success of the strategy.

People-First

It’s tempting to have the aforementioned objectives and measures focus only on what needs to get done. But a critical element of a strategy is how each person in the organization is to contribute. And, just as importantly, how they are going to collaborate with their peers in their shared purpose.

A people-first approach - one that focuses on the needs and desires of the individual - can help ensure that every person critical to the success of the strategy can articulate how and why they do so.

It’s for this reason, that any model purporting positive transformation of a business must start with an understanding of the talents and capabilities of the individuals comprising the organization.

Put your people first.