Strategic Planning is Dead - Setting a Sound Strategic Direction is Not

If you don't know where you are going, any direction will get you there.

By now you know that I am not a big proponent of the traditional annual strategic planning process.  Yet I do feel very strongly that one of the key objectives for these sessions is still critically important; perhaps even more important today than ever before.  That critical objective is to establish a clear direction for the company.

 

In my last blog (Strategic Planning is Dead – Long Live Strategy Execution) I stated that all decision-making takes place within a given context.  If we are striving to have the corporate body respond in the semi–autonomous fashion that enables it to respond to its environment at today’s speed of execution, then everyone in the organization must be operating from the same context.

 

Context is the guiding principle for making any decision.  The context for strategy execution lies within what we call The Strategic Compass™ and consists of the corporation's Soulful Purpose, its Values and Vision of its Desired Future. 

 

We can best understand these elements of the Strategic Compassä by first looking at how these elements drive individual human behavior. 

 

The Soulful Purpose is the core reason, the foundational purpose for existence.  All living organisms, including humans and Living OrganizationsÒ, are designed to maximize their ability to fulfill their Soulful Purpose.  When we make choices consistent with our Soulful Purpose, life seems to flow effortlessly. 

 

Along with our purpose for existence, human behavior is always an expression our core values.  Even if we are mostly unaware of what these are, our core values still drive most of our behaviors.  In fact, it is through those behaviors that we reveal our true core values.

 

The final element that defines behaviors is a vision of a desired future.  This is not a “vision statement”, but rather an expression of what life would be like if we achieved our deepest desires.  It is a picture of a future state that we truly desire.

 

All living organisms operate mostly in a semi-autonomous state.  That is, we are not making cognitive choices, but rather responding to the cues from our environment.  We continuously take in massive amounts of data about our environment, but apply less than 10% of our conscious thoughts in determining how best to respond to it.  Our semi-autonomous nervous system makes these choices for us. 

 

The three elements of ­­­­Soulful Purpose, Values and Vision of Desired Future serve as a compass for our bodies in making decisions. 

 

Think of these three elements as a container.  Like a container that gives shape to water, the Strategic Compassä gives shape to the Context field of energy, defining the choices available to us. 

 

Like individuals, The Living Company is also driven by these three elements of the Strategic Compassä.

 

When I speak on the components of Soulful Purpose, Values and Vision, I am often asked how these differ from the commonly accepted concepts of the Mission/Vision/Values statements that all strategic planning consultants help their clients create.  My answer is, it is no different if these statements are truly driven from the Context field, and not just mere statements reached through an intellectual process of the Activity field.  It is analogous to the difference between viewing our bodies as mere machines versus the totality of what defines being human.

 

For example, a mission statement driven from the Soulful Purposeä of the Context field will engage and heighten the core spirit of the organization.  One created from the Activity field results in lifeless mission statements that fail to engage the spirit of the organization. 

 

Are there any good mission statements out there?  Yes, I believe there are, ones that reach down into the Soul of the organization and maintain the Context field energy in its expression.  Here are some examples I believe convey this:

 

3M - "To solve unsolved problems innovatively"
Mary Kay Cosmetics - "To give unlimited opportunity to women."
Wal-Mart - "To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people."

In each of these, one “feels” the Soulful Purpose™ of the company.  It is simple, direct and guides decision-making for everyone in the company.  It provides the essence of the Strategic Compass™.

 

Similarly a company’s core values establish the parameters for what we are and are not allowed to do. Again, this is different than the “value statements” all companies now have, such as “operate with integrity”, “respect for all”, “collaboration and teamwork”, etc., etc.

 

The same thing happened to “values statements” that happened to “mission statements”. They became an Activity field exercise and lost connection to the deeper energy that engages people and guides decision-making.  Here is an example from Walt Disney of one that is more aligned with what I believe is required:

 

·    No cynicism

·    Nurturing and promulgation of "wholesome American values"

·    Creativity, dreams and imagination

·    Fanatical attention to consistency and detail

·    Preservation and control of the Disney "magic"

 

These are real substantive values that guide behaviors and set a moral compass for everyone to follow in their decision-making.

 

The last component of the Strategic Compass™ is the Vision of a Desired Future.  We all know that the intent of ‘vision statements is to create a compelling vision that would energetically pull the organization into the future.  Unfortunately, this too went the way of becoming a plaque on the wall, losing the very essence, the energy that pulls the organization forward towards the desired results. 

 

To realize the power that was originally intended, the Vision of the desired future must go beyond being a statement.  It must become a story.  A rich story of what we are striving to create, of what our world will be like when we achieve our Soulful Purpose™.  And like all good stories, it will evoke an emotional pull on the part of the listener; moving them, literally and figuratively.

 

When we restore the Context field energy, the energy of purpose and meaning, to who we are, what we stand for and what we are setting out to create, then we have realized the true essence of the corporation’s Soulful Purpose™, its Values and its Vision.  We will have created a Strategic Compass™ that everyone our organization interacts with, internally and externally, will align with.

 

When the Strategic Compassä is combined with robust frameworks for effectively evaluating inputs from the environment, such as the ARC Framework™ and Real Time Execution Wave™, The Living Organization® will naturally increase its velocity of execution, which in turn maximizes value for all stakeholders.

 

To learn more about The Living Organization model and how it can be applied to your organization, download our free white papers here.

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