Monthly Archives: January 2014

Really Thought Provoking Definition of Strategy

Professor Henry Mintzberg defined strategy as “a pattern in a stream of decisions”. This helps us better understand how decisions relate to strategy. This phrase is easy to remember but it may take years to fully grasp its point. Mintzberg’s cryptic statement can be understood as an approach to decisions in two steps:

Firstly, there is the overall decision – the big choice – that guides all other decisions. To make a big choice, we need to decide who we focus on – our target client segment – and we need to decide how we offer unique value to the customers in our chosen segment. This is basic strategy stuff but, by formulating it this way, we can better understand the second part, the day-to-day decisions – the small choices – that get us closer to the finish line. When these small choices are in line with the big choice, you get a Mintzberg Pattern.

Condensed from Strategy Magazine, Issue 31 Page 31

So, we conclude that strategy is not just about deciding the important macro-direction to take, but a way of enabling all members of the organization to determine what they should or should not do. There are corollaries to this conclusion, so maybe further blog entries….

Comments welcome.

Strategic Leadership Professional Associations

Here are a few links to professional associations that can give you more ideas on strategic leadership.

Association for Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning Society

If you want to get new ideas and develop your strategic leadership techniques, these two organizations might help.

If social networks are your thing, then you could check out the following discussions on LinkedIn:

Strategy Consulting Network

Business Strategy & Competitive Strategy Forum

Definition of Leadership

Good definition of organizational leadership quoted in Ken Cochrum’s book “Close“:

Organizational leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.

That must be half of the definition of strategic leadership. I like it.

SPP vs. 4DX vs. PM

Our organization uses a Strategic Planning Process (SPP) and we have recently introduced 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) and Project Management (PM)So, how do these tools fit together?

These tools are different, and fit different scenarios. The scenarios might overlap and the tools are compatible, but they are designed to be used in different ways.

SPP is designed to re-align an organization (a whole company or a division) to the main strategic goals is needs to achieve. Part of the Strategic Planning Process is to identify what the main goals are and how to achieve them given what is happening in the market. The SPP may result in a series of high level goals and actions, independent of implementation detail.

4DX is designed to help implement one key change (or maximum two) that a strategic plan (or quality review, or audit, or financial review etc.) has identified needs to happen along with everything else that is happening. However, 4DX only really works when there is a team of people needed to implement the change over a period of time (between two weeks and a year) using a repeated number of common actions. In other words, 4DX applies when multiple people can identify a core event that they can repeat to effect a desired outcome. 4DX is not applicable in tasks that happen once, or are implemented by one person (unless that person likes holding weekly meetings with them-self).

PM is designed to help implement a complex project of varied actions to achieve a specific goal. PM is good at breaking a major task down into varied sub-tasks across people of multiple disciplines, and controlling their implementation to achieve the goal. PM can be used to manage performance of repeated tasks, and to track the results of those tasks, but is overkill in this application when compared with the simplicity and focus of 4DX.

SPP would be used to do things like:

  • Stand back from the day to day and see if everything that we have been doing is achieving the highest level goals of our organization.
  • Annually assess if the “way we do things” should change.
  • Identify what new actions to take because the world has changed around you.

Examples of things that fit the 4DX model include:

  • A team decides to collectively gain weight by each eating larger meals every day.
  • Influencing the behavior of a large group of people by repeatedly influencing small actions taken by each member of that group.
  • Saving money at the department level by repeatedly reducing the costs of each individual item used.

Project Management is better suited to objectives that require varied tasks like:

  • Arrange a conference.
  • Build a skyscraper.
  • Develop a new product.
  • Purchase a company (unless your core actions is something like buying one new share of stock of the company on NASDAQ each day).

Note that these are different tools, and one is not necessarily related to the other.

However, if the SPP identifies a specific critical new objective that needs to be achieved, then 4DX may (or may not) be a good tool to drive implementation of some of the actions to achieve that objective and PM may be a good tool to drive the implementation of other actions to achieve that objective.

Using a SWOT Analysis in Developing a Strategic Plan

A SWOT analysis can be used to help determine what actions should be taken to meet a goal. This should be clear in the items identified in the SWOT, and the actions taken as a result.

The first thing to do is state the goal to be achieved. This could be an organization Vision statement, a Direction statement or a team objective. You can’t develop a strategy using a SWOT analysis if you do not know what goal you want to achieve.

The purpose of completing a SWOT chart is to identify the most important things upon which to build, avoid, make the most of, and counter (respectively) through the actions in the plan in order to achieve the goal. The items in the SWOT analysis should clearly relate to the achievement of the goal.

Similarly, the actions identified after completing the SWOT should clearly relate to the items identified in the SWOT. Otherwise, there was no point in doing the SWOT analysis in the first place.

Let’s work through an example.

Say that an organizational goal is: “To motivate 100 volunteers to do something specific with a product developed by your organization by the end of this calendar year.”

The strengths of your organization, weaknesses of your organization, opportunities coming up in your environment, and the external threats to succeeding in your goal can be listed in a SWOT chart as follows:


  • We have a working prototype of the tool already developed.
  • The tool is easy to use, so training of volunteers should be quick.


  • We don’t currently know 100 volunteers.


  • There’s an industry conference in May that many of our volunteers could attend.
  • An existing donor to our organization has said that they will provide the funds to use tools like the one that we have developed.
  • The volunteers we know respect us and like to refer other people to us.


  • The best time of year for volunteers to use this tool is September, and it is already February.

Notice that the wording of the SWOT items specifically relate to the wording in the objective.

The action plan to achieve the objective could then directly relate to the items in the SWOT analysis as follows:

  1. Fred to contact all known volunteers by March 31st to invite them to the May conference.
  2. Jane to produce demonstration kits and promotional material by May 1st for volunteers to recruit further volunteers.
  3. Arthur to contact the donor by February 28th to see if they will fund production of 100 tool kits by August 31st.
  4. Algernon to build a Facebook page by March 31st describing the tool to allow known volunteers to share the idea with other potential volunteers.

Notice that the words in the actions directly relate back to the items identified in the SWOT analysis, which in turn relate directly to the goal.

Real Simple Definition of Good Leadership

There are just two things that a leader needs to do:

  1. Ensure the people following / working for him / her know what their objectives are.
  2. Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives.

It is that simple. Really, it is that simple.

I’ve worked for a lot of different people over the decades in multiple cultures across many countries and socio-economic groups. I’ve worked with all types, from micro-managers to absentee managers. I’ve observed that what the good leaders did boiled down to just these two things. Now, there’s detail behind these things.

“Ensure the people following him / her or working for him / her know what their objectives are” means that the objectives are:

  • defined unambiguously;
  • described as outcomes (or deliverables);
  • SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely;
  • agreed with the staff member / follower.

“Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives” could include:

  • financial and material resources (the agreed budget must be funded);
  • human resources (the people with whom they need to work to achieve the objectives are made available);
  • skill resources (the staff member / follower has access to all the skills necessary to achieve the objectives);
  • processes that they need to or could use.

Leadership all seems to boil down to something as simple as this. Note that this definition is independent of the management / leadership style (e.g. command and control / benevolent / servant) provided by the manager / leader. It is also independent of culture and distance over which leadership is provided.

One note. Personally I’ve noticed that the very best managers / leaders for whom I have worked have always done the above in the context of helping me progress towards my life and career goals. I think that this was because they recognized that they were leading me for only a small portion of my career / life. By developing me as part of achieving the current organizational goals they gave my next leader the opportunity to have me contribute further towards to goals of the organization. I thought that this was a good thing to attempt to do.

There’s a reason why you’ve never read a management book that makes leadership this simple: because you can’t sell a book with only one page.

Really Useful Website of Strategic Management Tools

The following website has a lot of really useful tools for Strategic Management / Leadership:

Everything from planning processes to analysis tools to summaries of the best theories.

Check it out.