Make Strategy the Driver, not the Unused Map Under the Seat

Did you make a New Year's resolution? Okay - enough on personal embetterment (to borrow a phrase coined by the recent ex-pres). What does your company need to change? If no change is needed, you and your generals must already rule the universe, I suggest you focus on Meditation.

Assuming self actualization is less important (at this moment) than business success, read on... The following is technique proven to yield successful execution of business strategy.

Let's assume you've developed a great strategy (no small feat - its what you're doing and why). Let's further assume your employees then didn't accomplish their respective responsibilities, thus resulting in failed strategic execution. Sounds typical. And frustrating. Not to mention expensive and unacceptable due to lost opportunity.

1- State Your Mission

Mission is a loosely-used term. Don't confuse this with your "Mission Statement" (typically a lengthy, un-utilized collection of words). Instead, define a mission (or intent) for your employees to accomplish that will make YOU (assuming you are the business owner/CEO) happy. As an example, perhaps 20% sales growth would be exciting.

2 -Re-State Your Mission

Context is critical. Think of this step as an executive-level exercise in remembering why your company exists (hint: customers). You may need to refine your Mission upon further consideration of the context. If the identified mission is important, it has to be in sync with the company's ultimate purpose. Another way of putting it, is this, "Our customers will accept a 20% price increase because we offer world class service" (see how the company's ultimate purpose dictates all missions). CAUTION - Missions should flow upward and support higher level objectives, as opposed to shaping higher level objectives. That's not to say top level missions can't change but it should be done with intention.

3 - Define Performance Metrics

How will your employees know they've been successful? Their input is important here. If they understand their mission (i.e. what they will do) and why its important (how it will support the executive level mission) the organization is aligned for success.

4 - Define Tactics

Convert your strategy (executive level plan) into tactics (employee level plan). Specific responsibilities are parceled out. Failure to accomplish the broad strategy will be directly traceable to unattained performance metrics, which in turn will point to ineffective tactics of those front line employees (who are highly engaged with critical operations or customers).

5 - Set limits and boundaries and debrief

Your employees will set their own boundaries if you don't ("Gee, I think I will start leaving work at 5 as long as I get here by 7"); employees may set loose or restrictive boundaries on themselves with the worst case being that said boundaries are not focused on accomplishment of their missions. By setting initial boundaries and occasionally holding a debrief session to gain better business insight, your strategy has a dynamic element, which seeks to take advantage of new information gained and develop best practices. Boundaries may need to be redefined to allow a different level of flexibility. Debriefing is concerned as much with maintaining high psychological health of the employee as it is an opportunity for information gathering.


The technique described above was utilized in Caesar's military operations; the general form of this technique is so timeless its utilized today to maintain the largest operation on the face of the earth - the US Military (not to mention virtually all corporations with an element of strategic sophistication). Although, this technique is highly effective for execution of strategic initiatives, the top level executive must be ultimately responsible for the strategy and ensuring that the employees feel empowered to engage the customer and impact the business.