"Transforming Corner-Office Strategy into Frontline Action”
by Orit Gadiesh and James
Business Review, May, 2001, pp.
The authors, Chairman of
the Board and a director of the consulting firm Bain & Company, describe
their observation that many successful companies have a short, memorable
“strategic principle” that aligns actions and decisions within large,
diverse organizations. Examples
“Low prices every day”
“Meet customers’ short haul travel needs at fares
competitive with the cost of automobile
Bain & Co.
“The product of a consultant should be results for
clients – not reports.
As an historical example,
they give Admiral Lord Nelson’s rejection of the common practice in his time
for admiral’s to try and direct fleets through signal flags.
(For some hint of how poorly this often worked, see this on the life and
even in today’s technologically sophisticated battlefield, where sniper
targets a half a world away can be seen and approved at headquarters, the US
Army still trains and operates under the doctrine of “Commander’s Intent.”
This requires small teams and leaders far down the chain of command to be
able to remember, understand, and apply the statement of purpose for a given
action, and align their actions accordingly.
(See Surfing the Edge of Chaos
differ from mission statements by being action oriented.
The authors suggest that
decentralization, the rate of technological change and its impact on
competition, and any type of stress on an organization (rapid growth, decreasing
sales, a failed product, etc.) enhance the need for a strategic principle to
guide and align actions without the need for central monitoring and control.
They note, however, that such principles are not magic; they require
discipline and the willingness to stay the course when the heat is on.
A few years ago, I read
an article, I think in the Wall Street
Journal on how Bruce Springsteen’s “Like a Rock” became so much more
than an advertising theme for Chevrolet. It
caught the spirit and essence of what engineers, designers, managers felt about
Chevy trucks. It became an
incredibly memorable, powerfully emotional strategic principle.
(In one of those irritating things that happen, I didn’t clip this
article and haven’t been able to find it.
I’d be most obliged to anyone who can provide me a reference!)
to Schools and School Systems
If you think schools and
school systems just need a new program, a change in the curriculum, or maybe
fire a few folks and replace them with others, then you probably don’t find
much of importance in this concept. As
for me, I think it’s important
enough that my strategic principle is stated on the home page for this web site
and is the signature line for my e-mails.