There are many definitions of strategy. Having served in the military for 25 years and counting, I have seen strategy take many shapes. Of late, I have read the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. There is a great deal to unpack in both of those complementary strategies and when it comes down to it they are the same as any good business strategy. That is to say that they represent a set of guiding principles that frame both behavior and decision making across the team committed to executing them.

I have helped to write more than a few strategy documents in my day and I have even been the approval authority on a few of them. As it became abundantly clear that the team I am on now needed the focus that a shared commitment to guiding principles, a singular set of priorities, and a common definition of success would provide, we embarked on the development of our strategy. This time around I wanted to experiment with a different approach. Rather than write a strategy from the senior levels of leadership and unveil it after approval for all to execute and own, we chose to collectively own the development in the same way we expect to collectively own the execution. Last Saturday, I sent the below via e-mail to the entire team…

Steve Jobs famously said “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to dowe hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” This very approach is also foundational to our culture. Rather than present you with a prescriptive document so you can do what it says, we want to be deliberate about leveraging the amazing teammates you are. Please use the link below to read the document as ‘Dino’, ‘Pebbles’, ‘Fred’, ‘Wilma’, ‘Bam-Bam’ and I left it yesterday and comment/suggest as you see fit. The tactical section that follows the guidance is there for you to add your take on more specific action you believe we should take in keeping with our evolution. After all, the whole purpose of strategic guidance is to provide focus, inform future decisions, and align our execution. It’s vital that we get this right and there’s little chance of that happening if we aren’t all part owners of it. This is OUR Team. Success is on OUR shoulders. Let’s ensure OUR strategic guidance responsibly frames OUR collective action.

We will close out the document at 1700 on Thursday, 22 March and make preparations to really get after it the week that follows. Buckle up!

(Note: Names were changed to protect some of our significant contributors…The Flintstones are not on the team, though it would be fun to work with them)

There are two days left and as I periodically check the Google Doc for updates, I am increasingly pleased. The percentage of our team that is commenting is even higher than I expected. The number of points and counterpoints is as plentiful as I had hoped. And the constructive dissent is what I have grown to expect. The value of any strategy is in its shared execution and if the way we are developing this strategy is a predictor of our commitment to its execution, I couldn’t be more pleased. From an external perspective, a strategy document is the single most accurate way to assess the culture of the team whos behaviors and decision making it is attempting to guide. And from the inside, the way a strategy is developed is the only true way to measure the true culture of the team. For some, developing the strategy is the prime directive. For me, it’s not about the strategy. It’s about the conversations had as we cooperatively develop it. And, it’s about the execution. The former most definitely informs the latter. Ours is developed for the crowd and sourced by the crowd, as it will be executed with the crowd.

  • How have you developed strategy in the past?
  • How do you measure the value of the strategy?
  • How do you leverage the talent across your team?