Vision Without Strategy is Like Wheels That Are Misaligned

A car with poorly aligned wheels is dangerous to drive on the freeway. Wouldn’t you take a moment to have the alignment adjusted before setting out on a long trip?

In business, if your operations strategy and business vision aren’t aligned, the expressway to profit quickly becomes a bumpy, stressful road. As I work on my next book, I’ve been interviewing CEOs, COOs and CFOs of middle market companies about how they align their strategy with the vision. We’ve been discussing how taking a holistic view helps strike a balance between strategy (the why) and tactics (the how), and getting that balance right is essential for success.

Many middle market company leaders focus too heavily on either their operations strategy or their business vision, forgetting that connecting the two can generate extra horsepower for success. The holistic view provides balance between your corporate vision and operations strategy and enables you to accelerate to high business value. This does not need to be a laborious process. Strategy development should be quick. In fact, I’ve developed a process that can be executed in as little as one day, that can develop an aligned, holistic strategy to achieve your vision.


Beyond SWOT

In my executive interviews I’ve learned that corporate strategy is often developed during an annual process, frequently at an off-site retreat, and with a focus on an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). The associated operations strategy, if there is one, is usually developed by the operations team, often without much consideration for the overall direction of the business. Many times the CEO does not participate in that planning, relying on his operations team to develop the critical mechanisms that will help the company keep its promises.

SWOT analysis starts with the current state of the business and assists in developing a strategy to move forward. A lot of time is spent on the past year’s financial performance to help set priorities for the coming year. Unfortunately, that considers only one key component and does not create a vision that will rapidly improve value. SWOT is goal-oriented, but what happens when you achieve your goals? Often, activity stops as people ask, “now what do we do?”


Tactics Without Strategy

Another finding is that many companies focus on tactics without strategy; doing things like Lean without first contextualizing those improvement efforts. They try to improve financial strength or reduce costs without first considering the company’s strategy and vision. In manufacturing, being the low cost producer is only one of five potential strategic drivers that a company can choose from.

The corporate vision expresses what you’re trying to achieve in the next two to three years, and why. It is the future state toward which the company and its stakeholders move to create increased value. It provides focus to your employees and partners and serves as a measuring stick to assess progress. The operations strategy, which is used to help attain the vision, is comprised of 12 key elements including vertical integration, supply chain design, capacity, technology, workforce, and more.

Holistic view quadrant


If you have a strong corporate vision but weak operations strategy, you can’t keep your promises. If you have a strong operations strategy and weak vision, you’re wandering in the wilderness. If both are weak, you are dying. If both elements are strong, you are accelerating your profit and growth and dramatically increasing business value.

The Take-Away

If you want exponential improvement, it is incumbent on your team to take a holistic view with a steep improvement curve, generated by closely aligning your business vision with your operations strategy. This will rapidly increase the company’s value whether you’re planning a transition or not. The holistic view moves your company into the express lanes creating a smooth, fast ride to your destination.


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