Why great leaders walk tightropes!

I think the most overused word in the business lexicon is STRATEGY. Many business leaders populate their days in meetings about strategy … corporate strategy, product strategy, pricing strategy, etc.

The other extreme is to forget about strategy altogether, in an effort to be seen as doing something. As humans, our default position when faced with fear or stress is generally to speed things up. A sense of urgency is often the course of action that replaces thoughtful planning.

Great leaders I have known walk a tightrope, ensuring their organizations have an appropriate balance between strategy and action.

“Strategy without action is a daydream; action without strategy is a nightmare”.

The insightful Japanese proverb above leads us to the question of balance between thinking and doing, strategizing and action. Do you have a suitable balance for today’s time and space?

1.  Here are 3 questions to help you examine your company’s balance…You have a rigid business planning cycle, and it tends to define the activities within your company. It takes a lot of time, and usually includes a big presentation; most are nervous about this presentation.


Not us            1           2            3            4            5            Sounds like us


2.  Your plans tend to be at the 30,000 foot level, and are thin on market understanding.  They may exclude details around customer needs, and are difficult to translate into action.


Not us            1           2            3            4            5            Sounds like us


3.  Your employees have a sense of the company’s direction, but have difficulty seeing their role in plan delivery.

Not us            1           2            3            4            5            Sounds like us


If you feel you are closer to the right hand side of the scale, you could probably tie in strategy with ground-level actions better. It may also indicate a need to increase understanding of market and customer dynamics, to ensure that your strategy will turn into something more than an inspiring PowerPoint presentation.

My only objective in designing this little exercise was to encourage thinking about the balance between strategy and action. While most companies have a plan, others don’t. Still others only have a financial budget. I’ve counseled clients where the starting point was 5 year revenue forecasts masquerading as a strategic plan. Sometimes other clients suggest that their business is all about results, to the exclusion of a plan, and whatever the consequences.

Obviously, I believe in balancing strategy and action. I believe in having a plan that anticipates market and competitive forces, and addresses customer needs. I think it’s critical that the company’s strategies are well articulated, and that the actions are communicated and shared across the organization. The plan doesn’t need to overwhelm the company, but it is a needed tool to chart the future course of the organization.

If you are interested in discussing how to achieve a better balance between strategy and action please contact Boardroom Metrics 1.905.709.4031.