The first strategic question

“Who are YOU? said the Caterpillar
“I hardly know, sir, just at the present–
at least I know who I WAS
when I got up this morning,
but I think I must have been changed
several times since then.”

I’m not a fan of the traditional ‘strategic’ thinking. My experience is business managers haven’t much of a clue about what strategy is. I know that sounds arrogant, but ask someone about their strategy and they’ll hand you a spreadsheet of their plan— often little more than an extended ‘to do’ list. That’s if you’re lucky. Worse, they’ll force you to sit through their slide deck. You know it’s true.

What does impress, however, is how the top layers of most organizations present the very idea of strategy— as if it’s something mysterious; something that requires their particular level of genius. And pay grade. Everyone else’s job is to be the ant and implement. Because traditional strategic thinking follows the laws of gravity and, like sewage, flows downhill.

Implementation must be measured, of course. How can the ant be held accountable if its actions aren’t measured? And, since Peter Drucker warns us that strategy and structure must be aligned, if the ant fails in its efforts to implement, then the organization must either re-org or re-tool. It stands to reason. Because the strategy and those who created it can’t possibly be at fault. To question this ‘truth’ is to risk your future at most organizations.

This isn’t to say that planning and measuring aren’t important. They have their appropriate place. But we’ve gotten to the point in the business world to where the tail is wagging the labrador. To question measurement or accountability is an act of blasphemy and high treason.

Such dogmatic acceptance of machine-age business thinking models has a severe limiting effect on organizations who have a strategic need to innovate. Such devotion to these traditional beliefs may advance a business leader’s short-term individual agenda, but will seldom advance the mission of an innovative business. Organizations who create such cultures will struggle to recruit, hire and retain great creative talent.

At New Kind, we believe that innovative organizations compete stronger when they have a mission. A real mission. Something you can understand. Something you can see. Hold onto. Bite into. Something you can join.

Once you have a true mission, goals can be set. Simple goals. Measurable goals, perhaps. Inspirational goals. If you do it right “a-man-on-the-moon-before-the-end-of-the-decade” type goals. Then the next question follows: what is your strategy for meeting your mission.

But first you must know who you are. And this is the most important strategic question for innovative organizations— those whose leadership possess the courage and self-awareness to answer it.

“Who are you?”

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