Strategy- a living document?

The strategy can be a way of linking together or summarizing several goals for the organization. But if we asked the following questions to employees and managers in our companies and organizations; What are your goals? Why do you have goals? Why do you measure goal? Are goals always good?

What kind of answers would we get? And how many different answers would we get? Most likely, we would get a lot of different answers, even within the same organization. How can you change this into something more united? That’s what we want to highlight in this article

"The vision becomes meaningless if it is not combined with concrete and immediate measures."

This was written by Richard Normann, one of the most prominent management researchers of our time, best known for his theories of customer focus and communication that he wrote as early as 1975. But many companies are still far from reaching their full potential in formulating a vision and implementing a strategy.

Realize, carry out or execute. These are different words to describe the same thing. No matter what word you use this is where it usually becomes a problem. Developing a strategy and to write an action plan for a project or business is the simple part of the whole entrepreneurship, changes and project management. But how many succeed in implementation?

The "classic strategy debate”; both in literature and research has been roughly about whether a strategy should be seen as a fixed and accurate plan for the future, or as a flexible plan with room for continuous adjustments. We are convinced, both academically and with experience, that within today's organizations, only massive flexible planning with room for continuous adaptations is what works.


We distance ourselves from those massive 5-year plans that take weeks to write and that often do not go further than the drawer of our desk. We nevertheless distance ourselves from those who try to claim that planning and control, as a result of the accelerating rate of change, is unnecessary or doesn’t work. It does not create commitment or motivation to act without planning! "If you don't know where to go, it's no idea to hurry," as Winnie-the-Pooh said.

Already in ancient Greece…

It is said that the first time the strategy concept was formulated and used was when Socrates was comforting Nichomachides, a Greek military who lost his chance to become a general to the Greek businessman Antisthenes [1]. Socrates compared the general's duties with a businessman and showed Nichomachides that in both cases it is about how resources should be used to meet the goals.

Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridges, and many people have linked the strategy concept to entrepreneurship, and the research has resulted in an endless amount of literature on the subject. Strategy is a topic on which there seems to be an insatiable appetite for within management literature. This is probably because the question of why execution is so difficult, has yet not received any good answers. But by accepting that you also must understand human behaviors and driving forces, you have come a long way. Most people know about this today. So now it's time to move from word to action.

The time from vision and idea to final product becomes shorter

Michael Porter, strategy director and author of Competitive StrategyCompetitive Advantages and other bestsellers, has said that strategy is to develop lasting competitive advantages. A simpler definition might be that strategy is a "procedure for reaching a goal". It requires knowing where you want to go and then creating a plan for how to get there. The various concepts strategic, tactical and operational describes the time. According to the theory, a strategy should be maintained as it is for a longer period like 3-5 years. Tactics works in a shorter period, often the current year, and the operational level refers to the daily work.

The problem with this definition is that development and change are going so much faster today than just a few years ago. The time from vision and idea to final product in store just gets shorter and shorter, we change jobs more often, technology develops at a rate we could only dream of 10 years ago - and so on.

Against this background, it can be argued that the concept of 5-year plans is outdated today and that the part that talks about time in the strategy concept therefore becomes less important. (This doesn’t apply to all branches thought)

Furthermore, it is not that controversial to say that successful corporate governance today requires a dynamic model that takes both internal aspects and conditions, human behaviors and motivation, as well as the most effective way of relating to reality into account. A good business model and structure is still central, regardless of the time concept, and has a decisive effect on whether one will succeed with one's business or not.

Commitment and priorities are the keywords

We are many who have experience coming home from strategy and planning days filled with new energy and motivation, with paper rolls under the arm and piles of post-it notes to process, to soon realize that we do not have the power or ability to carry out all that we came up with. Sometimes it goes so badly that the paper rolls and post-it notes end up in a cupboard or a drawer. The strategy days were meant to make everyone understand where we are going, how to get there and enthusiastically and motivated to start working and pulling in the same direction and doing the right things. Maybe it was teambuilding at best, but not so much more than that.

It takes more than just understanding in order to work motivated and following a plan, it also requires commitment. It is difficult to create commitment around a strategy and a target image. Especially in a reality where daily operational work must always be prioritized. Commitment and motivation have different meanings and levels in different individuals and are linked to a variety of aspects of our personality and human psychological needs. But there are some common starting points that we know from experience work on the majority of us. Knowing where you are going and having a sense of control is very good for commitment. Being informed, understanding your part of the goal and having what you need to be able to perform and thereafter getting feedback on how things are going also helps.

The solution is a system and a working method that ensures that what needs to be done is done and is done in the right order. Clear goals and clear division of responsibilities create volunteerism and genuine commitment.

The Needs are the engine and the Goal is the tool

Almost all modern research on motivation answers the question about why and how to understand their part in the organisation's strategy implementation as a crucial part. To make plans become a reality, they must be put into action, and this requires communication and tools. Targeting is biologically inside us humans. I wish to quote one of my favourite authors, Bo Ahrenfelt [2]:

"There is no doubt whatsoever that a human is a creature always working against a goal."

Goals are thus necessary tools throughout life. The needs are the engine itself and the force. This applies to the individual, the working group and the organization! Goals are thus a very effective way of motivating and engaging, promoting well-being and reducing stress. The necessary tools for leadership are, therefore:

1: To formulate clear and concrete objectives and to

2: Have a strategy for goals, action plans and actions, both on the individual workgroup level, the departmental level and organizational level.

Common goals, leading and feedback are the cohesive lifeblood of the organization.

Rhetoric without action

The research on communication, strategy, visions and goals in organizations accelerated in the 1990s. As organizations flattened out, and probably because many companies failed to implement their strategy, several researchers began to take an interest in this topic [3].

In a large number of strategy documents, often very solid, the researchers concluded that they contained many of the "soft" values that are mentioned in many different contexts, both then and now. They aimed to promote the culture and loyalty of the employees, the emphasized values, norms and guidelines within the framework of corporate ideologies. But there were no descriptions or connections to specific operational events.

In short, the results of the survey matched well with Normann's previously stated view; strategic concepts had remained rhetoric without action. By linking goals and activities to responsibilities and roles and defining the conditions required to shoulder responsibility, you can avoid this happening to you.

The idea of a strategy that contains vision and goals is that the members of the organization should know, understand and act according to it. The ideal is that it becomes a living document, something that is practically complied within all the decisions that must be made. In this way, activities carried out in various departments contribute to the overall objectives. Plenty of organizations do not work like this today.

If the strategy process is to act as an invitation for action, the goals must be understandable and meaningful. This also demands communication. And action is required.

In the next article, we will tell you about how you can work specifically with goals and motivation to improve your implementation ability.

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