When Developing a Strategy  …..

I began working with companies, large and small, to help them develop strategies, about 35 years ago. At the outset I did what everyone else did – let’s work on a Vision and a Mission Statement.

After about 18 months I started a bit differently. I asked how many people in the group had ever worked for a company that had a Vision or Mission Statement. Every hand went up. I then asked for a volunteer to stand and tell us what either the Vision or Mission Statement was. With no volunteers, I offered $20 to the first person who could recite either a former Vision or Mission Statement. Then $50. Then $100. That’s when it hit me. We spend a lot of time and effort developing these things, and they are promptly forgotten.

Next I called the client with which I had worked the previous month on developing a strategy. I invited the entire working group to join me for dinner at my expense. Everyone accepted the invitation. We reminisced over dinner about the planning session. Then, over dessert, I asked for a volunteer to recite either the Vision or the Mission Statement. There were no takers because, a month later, no one remembered them.

Today, I skip both of these steps. They are not a complete waste of time, just mostly a waste of time. The Vision and Mission Statement serve to help focus the group. Once the focus is established, they are both consigned to the garbage. Since the primary value in them seems to be creating a focus, that’s where I go instead.

Nowadays I begin with goals. What goals should the strategy pursue? The goals create a focus that is not forgotten.