As a child born in the 50’s, I grew up in a world of casseroles. With both my parents working, it was common to have a casserole appear on the table at dinner time. I saw them regularly at church suppers, and once on a family vacation we even stopped and went to a church supper just because there were going to be casseroles and home-made pie.
My question is the following: “What hot dish is your company bringing to the table?” Inspired by an article by Cynthia A. Montgomery called “Putting Leadership Back into Strategy,” Harvard Business Review, January 2008, I think it is time we ask a series of excellent questions from the article to make us think:
- What kind of company do you want to be?
- What would the world be like without your organization?
- If your company were shuttered, to whom would it matter and why?
- Which of your customers would miss you and why?
- How long would it take for another firm to step into that void?
As she writes, “Purpose is at the heart of strategy. It should give direction to every part of the firm - from the corporate office to the loading dock - and define the nature of the work that must be done.”
When I reflect on all the different successful organizations I have worked with over many decades, I have come to the conclusion that successful companies have a “living” strategy. This happens because it is a purpose driven strategy. It is more than a plan; it is a way of life for the organization. Their living strategy defines who they are and what they want to become. It is integrated into the very soul of the company and defines that daily experiences for employees, customers and the community in which they live and serve.
Successful companies create this living strategy by consciously engaging in the following activities:
- strategic reflection, analysis and review
- strategic decision-making and delegation
- in-depth communication and definition which means communicating context, core philosophy and direction
- proactive listening and dialogue
- routine coaching and talent development
- implementing regular strategic dialogues which become the platform for real time strategic planning
When it comes to strategic dialogues, successful companies create them by developing a level of intimacy to the process, i.e. the time feels personal and direct rather corporate and impersonal. They also make sure these strategic dialogues are an interactive sharing rather than a time to be talked at. Next, these interactions are inclusive by relinquishing control over content and involving others, and they are intentional because strategy emerges better when there is a cross-organizational conversation.
Remember: everyone brings a hot dish to the market place. Those who are successful know how to make one that employees are proud to share and customers will enjoy eating.