At my first ever business school lecture on strategy, the professor described strategy as like a magnet being waved above a pile of iron filings. Before the magnet is waved, the filings will be pointing in all directions. But, after it is passed over the pile the filings will, almost magically, all point the same way.

My lesson from this exercise is that strategy must be developed top-down. No matter how friendly or well-intentioned the iron filings, they will only point the same way after the magnet has been passed over them.

Similarly, functional and divisional teams will only fully act together when there is the magnet of a clear strategy. Without it, each team will try do the best for itself. There may be some alignment, in some areas, but it is almost inevitable that you will be faced with competing goals, objectives, priorities and initiatives.

How strong is your organisation’s ‘strategy magnet’ and how well aligned are your functional ‘iron filings’?

Off The Record: Shape of You by Ed Sheeran

I’m in love with the shape of you

We push and pull like a magnet do