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By T.H.L. Gordon, CFPIM, Missouri Enterprise Project Manager

Abstract: Strategy without implementation has only one purpose – to convince the stakeholders that there is a future in the organization.  For Top Management to hold the “strategy” in their heads is a dangerous indulgence.  Organizations need a direction for the future that is both understandable and achievable - Let’s face facts, if you only aim for Rolla it is unlikely that you will ever sit on the beach in Hawaii! 

ISO 9001:2015 addresses strategy in §4.1 under the heading “Understanding the organization and its context.” It states:

The organization shall determine external and internal issues that are relevant to its purpose and its strategic direction.

It is axiomatic that the organization’s strategic direction must be determined before the external and internal issues that impact that direction can be determined.

There are a number of important questions that the Top Management of any Organization must ask and answer:

  • Purpose – Why do we exist
  • Vision – Where are we going
  • Values – How do we behave
  • Strategic Direction – What do we do – Key Success Factors [KSF]
  • Strategic Goals –What do we do right now to achieve the KSF – the Key Performance Indicators

All this seems so obvious so, “Why isn’t it effective”?  The reason is basically friction in the Organization, including:

  • The workforce is not static; turnover is a big headache in most organizations. This is the reason that ISO 9001:2015 addresses “Organizational Knowledge” and stipulates – “This knowledge shall be maintained and made available to the extent necessary”. 
  • The ‘goalposts’ move. Politics, egos, personalities, misunderstandings, passive aggression, turf wars, departmentalized thinking and changing operational circumstances all combine to change priorities.
  • Poor operational accountability. The KPIs do not support the KSFs or people have neither the authority nor responsibility over them.
  • Information is imperfect. It is not available, it is not clear or it is processed and interpreted differently by different people.

What can Top Management in any Organization do about it, if anything? 

ISO 9000:2015 suggests that “Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organization’s quality objectives.”

A novel idea but one that is not new.  A leader’s role is really that of a Chief Facilitator.  The strategy needs to be stated in the right context, articulated in such a way that people will believe its authenticity and identify with it. 

Napoleon understood this.  He expected his Marshals to use initiative and to act without orders provided they kept in line with the overall intentions.  After their defeat in 1806 the Prussian military developed the philosophy of Auftragstaktik.  Discipline did not mean following orders blindly but acting in accordance with intentions.  Auftragstaktik was responsible for Prussian/German victories until Hitler’s micromanagement saved everyone from having to learn German.  A salutary tale for Top Management!

At Missouri Enterprise, we offer a wide variety of solutions that can help businesses develop strategic plans as well as assist with implementation. With us at your side, we won’t let you stop at the planning phase. It’s 2018 and it’s time to be exceptional!