Mistaking Goals For Strategy

Big Goals are powerful. They stretch you and motivate you. And they focus you and your team on what’s important.

But Big Goals are not a replacement for strategy.

Richard Rumelt writes in Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, “A strategy is like a lever that magnifies force. Yes, you might be able to drag a giant block of rock across the ground with muscles, ropes, and motivation. But it is wiser to build levers and wheels and then move the rock.”

The desired destination of the rock is the Big Goal, and how you move it is your strategy.

What obstacles are in your way?

Pursuing a Big Goal is rarely straightforward. There are inevitably obstacles and forces that can prevent you from achieving your goals.

To develop your strategy analyze the obstacles:

  • External: What is happening in your marketplace that could hinder your company from achieving its Big Goals?
  • Internal: What is the culture and capabilities of your team? Are they capable of achieving the Big Goal?

Management teams tend to be very aware of the external complexities, but ignore the internal issues.

Don’t overlook your team. Culture and talent are often the two biggest obstacles for a company to successfully implement its strategy and achieve its goals.

What has happened to make the Big Goals achievable?

If a Big Goal is not achievable, it’s a dream. And the problem with dreams is they cannot be converted into deliverables. They are simply too big and too nebulous.

Before committing to your Big Goals challenge your team by asking, “What has happened for the Big Goal to be realized?”

By understanding the forces at play, both internally and externally, you can develop strategies to leverage these forces and market conditions to help you achieve your Big Goals.

Define the pivotal outcomes

To achieve your Big Goal what are the pivotal outcomes you need to accomplish first?

A long list of priorities and to-dos can derail your team from accomplishing its Big Goal. Your strategy defines clear priorities and outcomes. It defines the milestones or pivotal outcomes your company needs to accomplish to create the conditions for success.

To achieve the Big Goal what resources, expertise, partnerships, products, and capabilities need to be put in place first?

How will you move forward?

The Big Goal is the outcome, the strategy is how to move forward.

Rumelt writes, “A leader can set goals and delegate to others the job of figuring out what to do. But that is not strategy … Strategy is about how an organization will move forward. Doing strategy is figuring out how to advance the organization’s interests.”

Companies achieve success by making Big Goals and taking Bold Actions. Both are dependent on each other. The strategy is the glue that holds them together.

Define what your company will accomplish, and then develop the strategies to achieve them.