8 Essential Ingredients Every Strategy Needs

By David Silverstein

What’s your organization’s strategy? Could you sum it up in the time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee? Maybe you don’t have a well-defined strategy or maybe it’s time to rethink it entirely. The important thing: Success is typically elusive when all elements of strategy are not given their due. Here are eight essential ingredients that every strategy needs.

1. Saturate Your Synapses

Your brain’s memory capacity is close to a million gigabytes. And the idea that you only use 10%—a complete myth. Our brains have a truly amazing ability to consume lots of information (or dots)—and then to connect those dots in a way that provides truly unique insights. This is essential to informing your strategic thinking—a woefully neglected process in strategy creation. Your brain is a machine—use it!

2. Mind Your Mission

What happens when you don’t mind your mission? In a word, Kodak! Built on a culture of innovation, Kodak failed to move into the digital world quickly enough. Blamed on poor leadership, strategic decisions, complacency… the bottom line is that they didn’t follow their mission: “…to grow more rapidly than our competitors by providing customers with the solutions they need to capture, store, process, output and communicate images….” When you don’t stand by what your company stands for, you crumble.

3. Fancy the Futures

The business world is rife with clichés about “the future,” but when you’re creating strategy, you have to look at the possibility of multiple potential futures. Scenario planning is one way of considering a swath of possible outcomes. Basically, you have to consider that many factors may combine in complex ways to create an unexpected future, and when this happens, you don’t want to be stuck in the only future you imagined.

4. Don’t Fear Change

There’s nothing worse than investing loads of time in strategy creation only to end up with the same old strategy that wasn’t working before. The point of revisiting your current strategy or creating your next one is, in fact, to change. But beware of the unexpected ways in which change phobias crop up, including group think and analysis that merely validates preconceived ideas and established dogma.

5. Prepare Your Plan

Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” And if you aren’t part of figuring out where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace ELSE—or nowhere at all. When it comes to organizational strategy, too often the plan isn’t developed by the people who actually deploy it. But then how can you adapt as the world around you changes?

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.
— Yogi Berra

6. Execute Eloquently

Your strategy is more than a document that lives in the C-suite. It must be part of everyone’s job—something they want to be a part of. We recommend Hoshin Planning. When you use this strategic planning method, those high-level objectives that help you achieve your strategic goals are rolled down throughout the organization in an easy-to-understand way, so there’s alignment, there’s buy-in, and there’s a way to course correct if you get off track.

7. Trigger Transformation

When you’re effectively employing your resources to achieve your strategic goals, you’re on your way to true transformation. That means a supporting culture, improved financial performance and long-term sustainability. But you’ll need some methods to help you get there, for example, an innovation infrastructure or process improvement program.

8. Direct Daily Management

Remember, strategy starts at the top, but must then be “given” to every person in the company. Daily management—things like dashboards, stand-up meetings and standard work—are key to involving everyone in not only meeting strategic objectives, but also ensuring people aren’t veering off track. In short, put the right mechanisms in place so you can give the power to the people.

David Silverstein is the CEO and founder of the Lean Methods Group. He is a frequent public speaker and author.