It seems like every hour our inboxes are alerted to the latest blog, article, white paper, or video about the newest and hottest trend in executing strategy. These updates usually set the stage for their perspective with some great and profound quote from a renowned expert…
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
“A strategy is something like, an innovative new product; globalization, taking your products around the world; be the low-cost producer. A strategy is something you can touch; you can motivate people with; be number one and number two in every business. You can energize people around the message.”
"Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world."
Inevitably, the information will go on to share details about the single most critical quality that a successful business leader can possess: the ability to have and execute a “vision.” From there, more key words and attributes of success around vision and execution will follow, including
- Ability to envision a desired future
- Taking actions
- Motivating and engaging employees
- Making bold decisions
- Stepping back to assess
- Making bold revisions to the strategy
While all of these things are true, nice, and important in terms of being a good business leader, I believe that business leaders who go down the path of just “having and executing a vision” are making a critical mistake. There is something missing; the reason for having a business strategy in the first place…customers!
I propose that the biggest mistake business leaders make in executing strategy is not focusing the vision and execution on customers. As an expert in the design, development, and delivery of award-winning talent development engagements, I have a unique perspective into the focus and actions of business executives. It is easy for them to get distracted by the energy and noise of just doing business and it is even easier for them to get distracted by experts and outside consultants who think that strategic execution is just about accomplishing a vision.
In my opinion, the solution is to have a vision of a customer value proposition that delivers the right solution to the right customer. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
“Our vision is to become the largest and best widgets company in the world” could be mistaken for a good vision. The leader of the widget company will push the sales team to sell a lot of widgets, the marketing team to create awareness for widgets, the manufacturing team to make a lot of widgets, the supply chain team to source the best materials for the widgets, and the finance team to acquire the capital needed to make it all happen. Inclusion of the customer is missing.
Here is the same vision statement with the inclusion of customers:
“Our vision is to deliver good quality widgets at a value price to value-oriented customers around the world.”
In this vision statement there is a clearer connection to the customer and the value proposition. Once a business has established this clarity, then a leader can be much more effective in creating alignment. Marketing knows to create an image of good quality widgets at a reasonable price, the sales team knows whom to sell to and how to deliver the right message, manufacturing will receive more realistic forecasts and will be able to produce efficiently, supply chain management will source the most efficient materials, and finance will have more credibility and a better story to pitch to investors for capital.
In summary, having a vision and executing to that vision is important for a business leader, but it is incomplete and lacks a critical element: the inclusion of customers. A more effective and successful approach is creating and executing a vison that describes how your product or service will deliver a unique value proposition to the right customer.