Having a clear strategy is a prerequisite to the lasting success of any business. A critical part of that strategy is understanding that strategy development and strategy implementation are intrinsically linked. You must consider the resources and capabilities available to you so that you can move forward with confidence rather than hope.

When I wrote The CEO’s Strategy Handbook, I interviewed Dennis Sadlowski, the CEO of Siemens USA. He shared these five lessons for CEOs and other senior executives leading the strategy process:

  1. Engagement of the leadership team is critical. Engagement starts with involvement, and I ensured that the executive team and key managers at the next level in the organisation were intimately involved in the development of our growth strategy. We didn’t rely on external consultants to tell us the way forward; we led the work ourselves, doing our own blocking and tackling to make sure we understood the detail.
  2. The strategy must be developed outside-in. Our focus was on our customers, how we were going to be their #1 supplier and how we would lead our markets. The internal aspects of our strategy, and how we would achieve our objectives, were secondary. We started with getting to really know our customers.
  3. Strategy is as much about behaviours as it is about programs. Our customer focus meant that I spent significant time with our customers, finding out what was important to them and what they thought of us. I expected the same behaviours from my executive colleagues and our top 200 leaders. These changes in behaviours embedded our strategic priorities far better than any documents, plans or KPIs.
  4. Pay attention to who’s not coming on board and address it. This is important at all levels, but for the CEO it starts with the executive team and the next generation of leaders.
  5. Don’t mention the word ‘change’. Instead, focus your communication on what the company will achieve in the future, how it will work and what factors will ensure its success. People respond negatively to the word ‘change’ but are positive about changing if they can see where they’re headed.

Which of these five lessons could help you better move from strategy to action and from action to results?

Off The Record: Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi

Whoa! We’re half-way there,

Whoa-oh! Livin’ on a prayer!

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear,

Whoa-oh! Livin’ on a prayer!