It is the question that keeps strategy consultants up at night. Despite all of the work and investment that has gone into the development of your strategy, if you don’t get alignment on the answer to this question, you are not going to succeed moving forward.

We have all sat in strategy planning sessions where we have focussed on goals and numbers. Not surprisingly, the outcome of these sessions is that companies have struggled to move forward and implement on the plan. But why?

The reason is that when it comes to strategy sessions, most participants are not fully emotionally committed and engaged in the outcome. They are at best what we call being in ‘Genuine Compliance’. They have their own vision of what the future could look like, however in order to find a consensus, or to give the impression of being aligned to the CEO, they are prepared to compromise and accept and move forward with a strategy that looks reasonable; it’s something they can live with.

Not surprisingly, the execution phase isn’t as successful as we would have hoped. What this process has failed to appreciate is that it is the personal connection and belief in what we are trying to achieve that drives our subsequent behaviours. It’s that initial vision that will ground where we think the company needs to head and we will be influenced by this in the future decisions we make and the actions we take.

So how do we overcome this, elevate our team’s personal strategic connection and commitment, and build closer alignment to the strategy? The answer revolves around asking the following question:

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In five years when we are SUCCESSFUL with our strategy, what will this Company look like?

The word ‘successful’ is incredibly powerful in bringing out the individuals personal vision based on their own beliefs and drivers. When asked of each team member, you start to get a really rich vision of what collective success could look like, at the same time understanding where the differences or gaps are in the strategy process. As you go through the activity, a number of things will become apparent:

  • Success means different things to different people:

People look at success differently through their own lens. For some, success is defined in monetary terms, while for others its non-financial outcomes and that defines them.  Some are aspirational in what they believe can be achieved, others are more conservative in their expectations, they want to define success as something they feel comfortable can be achieved.  Some define success from a personal perspective, while others may look at success from the team or company perspective.  Within your leadership team the members will be driven by different things, and these are the beliefs and biases that will be shaping their individual visions of success.

  • There are many elements of success raised in the process that don’t appear in your strategy documents:  

How interesting, we’ve developed a strategy but there are things that your leaders may believe are core elements of strategic success that don’t appear in the plan. In many cases, the items that are expressed relate to how we go about achieving success based on our own sets of beliefs and values. More commonly we are seeing these behavioural elements relate to how we treat people, and how we want to be perceived by those around us based on the way that we conduct ourselves. These softer elements of success are equally important in the individual’s journey from genuine compliance into true commitment.

For many teams going through this process for the first time, especially those that consider themselves very closely strategically aligned, it does create surprise that the addition of the one word ‘Success’ can create a significant diversity of strategic visions across the team. In asking the question, it provide organizations the benefit of seeing where gaps may be in the strategic plan, where greater clarity may be needed, and overall the opportunity of creating a tighter strategic focus around where you are heading. Equally important for team dynamics, it helps team members understand and appreciate what’s personally important for their colleagues in their strategic journey, and to help support and accommodate accordingly.


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