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How to turn strategies into results

In 2015, companies spent 449 Billion dollars on consulting, much of it developing strategic plans.

For a majority of those companies, it was a waste of money.


In a study of more than a thousand companies in 50 countries, employees at three out of five organizations said strategies never turned into action. Why do companies spend time and money developing strategies and rarely use them?

When I was researching Pivot Point: Turn On A Dime And Still Get Results, I studied teams executing strategy across two dozen countries. The most common cause of failure was leaders believing a better strategy automatically meant better results.

Often, they led their teams right off a cliff, believing preparation equaled success.

Unfortunately, an embossed binder full of aspirational statements about the company’s mission and goals doesn’t equate to results, no matter how much research went into it.

(Don’t tell the 449 billion-dollar consulting industry).

There is a group of leaders who have been responsible for creating results-driven strategies for hundreds of years, executing in the most challenging environments on the planet. What do they have to teach businesses about developing strategy?

Step 1: Think like a general First, forget your current job title. To be successful, you’ll have to pin stars on your shoulders.

The word strategy comes from the Greek word "strategos," meaning general. To build a strategy that drives results, you have to stop defining yourself a facilitator, a manager, or even as an executive.

When General James Mattis, a Marine Corps commander who led thousands of troops in combat, was asked how leaders should plan, he told Business Insider :“I would make very clear the first thing they should do is … understand the situation the unit faces, where it’s been, where it’s going.”

Step 2: Clarify your goals In the military and in business, objectives have to be precise and profitable. If goals aren’t linked to a timeline, it’s impossible to coordinate teams across departments. Additionally, timelines allow individual units to be held accountable for results. Once goals are clarified, assigned and acted upon, strategy begins to turn into reality.

Step 3: Examine what worked before Military leaders regularly examine after-action reports from the field and use them to guide future planning.

When getting ready to plan your next project, ask your people what worked last time, what didn’t, and why. You can’t change what you don’t track, and you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Step 4: Decide where you’re headed Only after planning short-term goals and incorporating lessons learned do military leaders attempt to tackle an aspirational end-state.

Why do these expert strategists make sure they examine the past and the present before designing the future, the opposite of the way most companies plan their strategy?

They want to ensure their teams will be ready and able to step into the future they’re planning for them. It does no good to secure a city if there aren’t enough resources to defend it.

How will you begin building a strategy that yields results?

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