Strategic direction is the juncture at which you “must be familiar with the higher affairs of state.” It is where your experience, skill, and insight converge to envision the future of your organization or business unit. It is the point where you take a broader view of the internal and external issues affecting your business. That way you can provide greater precision to prioritizing objectives, shaping competitive strategies, and deploying people, material, and financial resources for maximum impact.

An indispensable dimension in thinking about the overall direction and goals of the organization is that it binds your leadership into a cohesive and managerial whole. That is, you and your staff can come together and make sense about the workings of the organization and the dynamics of the marketplace. You thereby create order out of what can easily deteriorate into disorder due to the lack of information and understanding about the course of the company.

What follows, as you assign authority and responsibility to members of your staff, is a noticeable improvement in the skillful implementation of a business plan and a heightened level of morale. In turn, that goes far to give a human face to your leadership. Altogether, you are able to energize the rank and file to push forward in an increasingly competitive environment. Often, it is the singular factor in deciding the success or failure of the business plan.

One who is confused in purpose cannot respond to his enemy.

Sun Tzu

This coming together to shape a strategic direction is known as collaborative, community-based, or social strategy planning.[1] The process is beginning to take hold among a growing number of organizations, including 3M, Dutch insurer AEGON, global IT services provider HCL Technologies, Linux software provider Red Hat, and defense contractor Rite-Solutions.

As you begin to take on a strategic viewpoint, you tend to activate your mind and think of resourceful approaches to improve the financial health and competitive vitality of your organization. The following points indicate how a broad strategic awareness can impact day-to-day operations.

You are able to stay informed and maintain better control especially where individuals are geographically separated and directives from higher-ups are often misinterpreted. You can then gain a clearer perspective about changes taking place in diverse markets, such as trends in consumer behavior, competition, environment, and culture. Armed with this information, you are in a better position to draw meaningful conclusions about the possible impact of various market forces on your company. And you gain broader insights into potential markets and businesses your company should be looking into over the next several years.

As you learn more about the additional functions required to fulfill customers’ needs as the market evolves, you acquire a better sense of your organization’s current competencies and what new skills and functions are needed to sustain growth. You can then tailor the appropriate skills training at the critical junctures to exploit market opportunities as they arise.

Further, you are better able to deploy personnel according to market conditions and according to their experiences and personality traits, so that when you create teams of personnel. The more aggressive individuals will act boldly but not impulsively; and the more reticent ones will act with some bravado, yet not retreat prematurely under competitive pressure.

As you expand your knowledge about the categories of customers you will serve, you can contribute valuable insights to your organization in such decision areas as new technology investments, joint-venture options, product development recommendations, supply-chain issues, and more.

The essential point is that awareness of an organization’s strategic direction no longer belongs exclusively to senior management; it is essential for effective and responsible leadership at all operating levels through collaboration.

Discipline does more in war than enthusiasm.


  • [1] Appendix 3 provides a format for a team-based strategy action plan. f McKinsey & Company research, collected over more than a decade at some 600 companies,indicates that even at the healthiest companies, about 25 percent of employees are unclearabout their company’s direction. That figure rises to nearly 60 percent for companies with poororganizational-health scores.
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