Navigating Leadership, Innovation, and Empowerment in the Digital Age

  Chapter 1: The Strategy-Goal Tango 

Imagine trying to win a race without a finish line or embarking on a trip with no destination. That’s what it’s like to run a business without clear goals. But to get to those goals, you need a road map—that’s where strategy comes in. Let’s understand this dynamic duo! 

Goals are your desired outcomes—the peak of the mountain. They could be anything like boosting market share, improving customer satisfaction, or becoming the market leader. Strategies, on the other hand, are the trekking paths you carve to reach that peak. Your strategies could involve investing in research, merging with a competitor, or tapping into new markets. For instance, a goal might be to become the market leader in an industry, while the strategy could involve acquisitions, new product development, or market expansion. 

Starbucks knew that to achieve its goal of becoming the premier coffeehouse, it needed a compelling strategy. It defined its strategy as creating an experience that would make Starbucks the “third place” in customers’ lives—between home and work. This guiding policy shaped decisions about everything from store layouts to employee training, leading to the Starbucks we know today. 

Chapter 2: Anatomy of a Good Strategy 

Now, we know what strategies are, but what makes a good strategy? Let’s take some wisdom from my favorite professor at UCLA Anderson School of Business, Richard Rumelt, and his book, “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters.”  He says a solid strategy has three key components: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent actions. 

  1. Diagnosis: Identify your challenges. What’s the mountain you need to climb? Analyze the competitive landscape, market dynamics, and company capabilities. Like a doctor’s diagnosis, this determines the “health” of your organization and industry.  
    • Questions to ask: Do you understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Who are your key competitors? What customer needs remain unmet? 
    • A thorough diagnosis can reveal the habits, behaviors and power dynamics that may need to change to enable strategy execution. 


2. Guiding Policy: This is your strategic GPS. It outlines your approach to overcoming the challenges identified. Ensure it aligns with your organization’s objectives.  Your guiding policy is the compass providing direction for actions. Here are a few examples of guiding policies: 

    • Toyota: In response to the challenge of increasing competition and customer demand for high-quality, affordable cars, Toyota developed the guiding policy of “Lean Production.” This approach focused on eliminating waste, continuous improvement, and respect for people, guiding the company’s actions and decisions in manufacturing, supply chain management, and customer relations. 
    • Starbucks: Faced with the challenge of differentiating itself in a crowded coffee shop market, Starbucks’ guiding policy was to create a “third place” between home and work. This approach guided decisions about store design, employee training, and product offerings, focusing on the quality of the customer experience rather than just the coffee. 
    • Apple: Apple’s guiding policy, as stated by Steve Jobs, was to “make products that people love.” This simple statement guided Apple’s approach to product design, marketing, and customer service, focusing on user experience, innovation, and high-quality design. 
    • Remember, a guiding policy is not a specific action plan or a detailed strategy. It is a broad approach that provides a framework for decision-making and guides the coherent actions that will be taken to address the identified challenges. Defining a new guiding policy may require restructuring teams, redefining roles and bringing in new skills and talent to support it. 


3. Coherent Actions: These are the actual steps or actions you’ll take to implement your guiding policy. They should be interconnected and support each other. These actions should be coordinated and aligned with each other to effectively address the identified challenges. A good strategy outlines these actions in a clear, coherent manner, while a bad strategy often includes a set of disjointed initiatives that do not collectively address the identified challenges.  

    • Take the example of Netflix. When the company decided to transition from DVD rentals to streaming, it outlined a series of coherent actions. These included investing in streaming technology, securing streaming rights for movies and TV shows, and gradually shifting the pricing model to encourage customers to move to streaming. Each of these actions was aligned with the others and directly supported the guiding policy of transitioning to streaming. 
    • On the other hand, a bad strategy often includes actions that are not coherent. For example, a company that identifies a need to innovate but continues to reward employees for maintaining the status quo is implementing incoherent actions. The reward system (maintaining the status quo) is not aligned with the identified need (innovation), leading to confusion and ineffective execution of the strategy.

Chapter 3: Mastering Strategic Choices 

Strategic choices shape the direction of an organization like a compass.  They determine your path forward. They could involve target markets, product offerings, business models, or growth rates. To make good strategic choices: Remember Southwest Airlines’ decision to be a low-cost carrier? That’s a strategic choice guiding its every decision. 

To master strategic decision-making, follow these steps: 

  1. Define Your Objective. What do you want to achieve? Increase market share? Improve profit margins? 
  2. Identify Options. What paths could achieve the objective? Consider research, input from others, SWOT analysis. 
  3. Evaluate Options. Assess options based on impact, feasibility, and fit with your organization. Use SWOT analysis, risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis.    
  4. Make Your Decision. Choose the option that best achieves your objective based on the evaluation. 
  5. Implement and Review. Execute the choice, monitor its effectiveness, and make adjustments as needed based on feedback and results.   

Poor strategic decisions lack focus, misalign with goals, ignore feedback, lack long-term thinking, or ignore external factors. Always consider: Do your choices align with your goals? Are resources spread too thinly across too many initiatives? Does this choice fit with where your market and customers are heading? 

Chapter 4: Strategy – The Art of Saying No 

An often overlooked yet crucial part of strategy is deciding what NOT to do.  Successful strategies are as much about deciding what not to do as what to do. Not doing certain things allows focus, differentiation, risk avoidance and prevents mission creep. Ask what initiatives you could eliminate or not pursue to focus on strategic priorities. What do competitors do that you choose not to do to differentiate your brand? What high-risk actions could you avoid without compromising your goals? How do choices fit your organization’s purpose and strengths?   

Deciding what to skip can help focus resources, differentiate you from competitors, prevent mission drift, and manage risks effectively. So, while planning, don’t just list what to do; make a ‘NOT-to-do list’ too!  Be explicit here.  

Chapter 5: Learning from the Past 

Understanding why past choices were made helps refine your strategic thinking. Analyze the context around decisions, alternatives considered, and outcomes. Learn from both good and bad choices to make better choices in the future. Questions to ask: 

  • What factors influenced that decision (market conditions, resources, organizational priorities)?   
  • What alternatives were considered? Why were they rejected? Could any apply now? 
  • Did actions achieve desired outcomes? If not, why? And how can we adapt our strategy?   
  • Do we see any patterns in our strategic decision making—either good or bad? How can we leverage or avoid those patterns going forward? 

For example, if a company’s previous strategy of entering new markets through acquisitions failed because it underestimated the challenges of integrating different company cultures, it might decide to approach future market entry through organic growth or partnerships instead.  

As another example, analyzing why a previous product launch failed could provide valuable insights for future product development and marketing strategies. By unpacking the choices that were made and understanding their logic, the company can learn from its past, adjust its strategy, and improve its chances of success in the future.
By continually evaluating your strategy, the choices behind it, and outcomes of those choices, you’ll build strategic thinking over the long run. While the future is hard to predict, strategic learning and pattern recognition can help your organization adapt and succeed. 

Analyzing past decisions can provide valuable insights to refine your guiding policies, make better strategic choices, and design more effective action plans. 

Chapter 6: Designing an Objective System for Project Selection 

Creating a clear, objective system for project selection involves taking a strategic approach that aligns with your organization’s unique goals. To choose high-impact projects, define clear selection criteria that reflect your strategic priorities. This could include factors like: 

  • Return on investment: Projects that drive substantial benefits relative to costs should rank higher. Consider both financial and non-financial returns. 
  • Strategic alignment: Projects directly advancing critical priorities and key performance indicators should receive priority. Those less aligned may face delays.  
  • Resource impact: Projects that optimize resource usage and efficiency while still achieving key goals can unlock potential trapped by fiscal or talent constraints.  
  • Risk level: Balance projects with various risk profiles – from incremental improvements to disruptive innovations. Pursue a mix that generates quick wins along with long-term opportunities.  
  • Impact on key stakeholders: Consider how different projects may meet the needs and priorities of groups like customers, employees and shareholders. Strive for a balanced allocation of benefits. 

Evaluating potential projects against your criteria helps determine how well each aligns with strategic goals and the benefits it may provide. However, selection is not a static choice but an ongoing process. Monitor projects routinely once launched and make corrections quickly based on feedback and outcomes. Pivot as priorities shift or you gain new insights into resource demands.  

 Defining transparent project selection criteria and articulating the reasons behind choices builds support and secures buy-in across stakeholders. However, avoid being rigidly bound to criteria, especially if opportunities emerge that, while misaligned, could significantly boost performance on a key metric or open new sources of value. Balance data-driven rigor against entrepreneurial agility.  

 Program management resources can also provide helpful frameworks for monitoring active projects. With a systematic and strategic approach, project selection becomes not a reactive choice but a vital capability and competitive advantage. Your ability to channel finite resources into the efforts that matter most determines your organization’s success in achieving its vision. Align choices to purpose, empower stakeholders, maximize impact – and your project portfolio will propel you ahead of peers. 

Chapter 7: The Role of Habit in Strategy Execution and Countering Bad Habits 

Habits can influence strategy execution, for better or for worse. Positive habits such as regular performance reviews and transparent communication can propel effective execution. Conversely, detrimental habits, such as passive resistance to agreed-upon decisions, can derail execution. Identifying and countering these habits is vital. 

Habits play a critical role in strategy execution. Leaders should proactively identify and manage these habits for effective strategy implementation. Here are some steps to guide this process: 

  1. Identify Existing Habits: Start by pinpointing habits currently prevalent in your organization. This could involve observing daily routines, scrutinizing processes, and actively seeking team member feedback. 
  2. Understand the Impact of Habits: Once identified, assess these habits’ impact on strategy execution. This might involve analyzing performance data, soliciting feedback, or running a SWOT analysis. 
  3.  Promote Positive Habits: Encourage habits that facilitate strategy execution. This could involve recognizing and rewarding these behaviors or integrating them into training programs. 
  4. Counter Negative Habits: Address negative habits that hinder strategy execution. This could involve offering training to cultivate new skills or altering performance metrics to incentivize different behaviors. 
  5.  Monitor Progress: Regularly track progress and adjust your approach as needed. This might involve routine check-ins, performance reviews, or feedback surveys. 

In terms of strategy development, understanding the role of habits can provide valuable insights. 

Chapter 8: Practices to Foster Change in an Organization 

Embedding practices into your organization to encourage change is an essential aspect of strategy building. A culture receptive to change can help your organization to identify and alter habits that impede strategy execution. It can also help to reinforce positive habits that propel strategy execution. 

Incorporating change involves promoting innovation, fostering open communication, and encouraging risk-taking. Additionally, it means creating a learning organization where feedback is valued, and mistakes are seen as learning opportunities rather than failures. 

To foster a culture of change, follow these steps: 

  1. Leadership Commitment: Change starts at the top. Leaders must model behaviors they wish to see in the organization, which includes being receptive to new ideas, taking calculated risks, admitting mistakes, seeking feedback, and demonstrating vulnerability. 
  2. Communicate the Need for Change: Clearly communicate why change is necessary and how it aligns with the organization’s strategic goals. This will create a sense of urgency and motivate your team to support change. 
  3. Encourage Open Communication: Create Psychological Safety: Psychological safety, where team members can express thoughts and mistakes without fear of punishment, is key to fostering a culture of change. Foster an environment where all team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas. Encourage questions, feedback, and open discussions. Make sure all voices are heard, not just those of the loudest or most senior team members. 
  4.  Promote Innovation: Encourage creative thinking and the generation of new ideas. This could involve brainstorming sessions, innovation challenges, or dedicated time for exploring new concepts. 
  5. Reward and Recognize Change-Oriented Behavior: Recognize and reward behaviors that support change. This could involve taking calculated risks, learning from mistakes, or successfully implementing changes. 
  6. Provide Training and Support: Equip your team with the necessary training and resources to navigate through change. This might involve training programs, coaching, or mentoring. 

Remember, fostering a culture of change is not a one-off event but an ongoing process. It requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to adapt as the organization evolves. 

Chapter 9: Reshuffling Teams or Roles, If Needed 

At times, strategy execution may necessitate reshuffling teams or roles. This could involve forming cross-functional teams, assigning new roles to leverage individual strengths, or bringing in new talent to fill skill gaps. 

Reshuffling teams or roles should not be done on a whim but requires careful consideration and planning. Here’s a guide to help: 

  1. Assess Current Structure: Start by assessing the current team structure and roles. Understand the strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities of your current setup. This will help identify any gaps or areas for improvement.
  2. Identify Needs: Identify what skills, roles, or team structures are needed based on your strategic goals.
  3. Consider Options: Consider different options for reshuffling teams or roles. This could involve reassigning roles within existing teams, creating new teams, hiring new talent, or providing training to develop new skills.
  4. Plan the Transition: Plan how the reshuffle will be implemented. This should include communication plans, transition support, and timelines.
  5. Implement and Monitor: Implement the reshuffle and monitor its impact. This should involve regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and adjustments as needed.

Leaders should undertake this process with a clear understanding of strategic goals and the organization’s needs. It’s important to communicate clearly and provide support throughout the process to ensure a smooth transition and maintain morale and productivity. 


Building a successful strategy is a journey, not a destination. It requires continuous diagnosis, defining a guiding compass, making aligned choices, managing habits, fostering change and adapting your team. While the future is uncertain, the right strategy provides direction by articulating your vision and the pathway to achieve it.  

The strategies that endure are rooted in an organization’s core values and strengths. They are bold enough to differentiate, yet pragmatic enough to execute. They balance vision and practicality, choosing a direction but remaining flexible in how they get there. 

 Progress comes from putting one strategic step in front of the other, learning from outcomes, and never losing sight of the ultimate goal: achieving your full potential through purposeful growth.  Executing strategy is challenging, but for organizations that build strategies focused on long-term vitality, it is the only path to sustainable success.   With diligent work at every level, any vision can become a reality. So, embark on your strategic journey – one step, one action, one day at a time. Your future awaits! 

Related Content:

  1. The Art of Crafting Strategic Goals: Learn how to set clear and compelling strategic goals for your organization.How to Set Strategic Planning Goals | HBS Online
  2. Successful Strategy Implementation. Strategy implementation is the process of turning plans into action to reach a desired outcome. Essentially, it’s the art of getting stuff done. The success of every organization rests on its capacity to implement decisions and execute key processes efficiently, effectively, and consistently. A Manager’s Guide to Successful Strategy Implementation | HBS Online
  3. Cultivating a Culture of Change: Find out how to build a culture of change in your organization and why it’s crucial for strategic success. Company Culture Is Everyone’s Responsibility (
  4. More on Culture Change. Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Culture Change (
  5. Culture and Values.   Candidates are seeking workplaces where they can intertwine their beliefs with those of the company, and work together on a common vision of purpose and success.  Build a Culture That Aligns with People’s Values (
  6. Team Structure Optimization for Strategy Execution: Learn how reshuffling teams or roles can enhance strategy execution. Team Structure: 10 Effective Ways to Organize Your Team [2021] • Asana
  7. Balancing Strategy and Execution. How New CEOs Can Balance Strategy and Execution (

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