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Author's profile photo Bob McGlynn

Strategy is a Verb

I sat in on Stacey Barr’s monthly performance management seminar. Her guest was Paul Niven, who has written the book Balanced Scorecard: Step By Step. This session explored the Balanced Scorecard approach and was thought-provoking.

At one point, Paul Niven said, “Strategy is a verb, it is not a noun.”

I liked that statement. Strategy has become a noun in too many circumstances. It merely names something, and what it names isn’t moving, rarely inspiring. Strategy really has to be a verb – it is about action. What needs to get done. Where the organization needs to be.

Strategy is about WINNING. You don’t read any strategies that begin, “We will be a little better than average in our industry.” It’s always about being number one, isn’t it? If not number one, one of the best, right? Unfortunately, a little better than average is what too many companies seem to settle for.

Why? It’s usually about process. Systems that aren’t strategic in nature create silos or stovepipes that reinforce better-than-average results rather than truly great outcomes.

To align an organization means that the systems and structures of the business are created to reinforce its core values and highest strategic priorities. Created and then recreated, because this kind of process is never completed and is never static.

In the 1950’s, W. Edwards Deming helped raise Japan’s manufacturing standards by providing them a strategy that improved productivity and quality. The recent issues with a Japanese manufacturer show that this strategy continually needs renewal and review.

Here are just a few of Deming’s 14 Key Principles for Transforming Business Efffectiveness:

  • Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and stay in business, and to provide jobs.
  • Break down barriers between staff areas or departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems that may be encountered production, service or the product.
  • Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company because they want to succeed.

It is about everybody winning. Not just a few, everybody, because that is who makes up the company. Why wouldn’t you want everybody to win? This is not some reward-every-mediocre-person-so-their-self-esteem-isn’t-damaged. There is no company that has a policy of only hiring mediocre candidates. Align the systems to let everybody win and then it’s not just a few people that shine it’s a whole organization that shines!

An organization’s strategy may start in the executive offices; it is not just for the execs. It should be top of mind for you as well. Why? Companies have to rely on their people making good choices and offering ideas for improving processes. You are the one that puts those strategic goals into action.

Strategy is Action and what you do every day should be helping your whole organization become great.

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      Former Member
      A common mistake is also to confuse strategy with a list of activities, i.e. a strategy needs to be supported by a clear goal that the strategy is supposed to achieve. Too often, it seems, articulating the top goal(s) is omitted and people go right into what needs to be done("flying 600 miles an hour without knowing where the plane is headed").