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ON MY OWN: Aligning actions with strategy


by Judette Coward-Puglisi

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EVERY YEAR the senior consultants in my firm get together to engage in pure strategic thinking.We started doing this more than three years ago and the periods of proactive as well as reactive thinking have seen us through the loss of clients and winning of new business, and the uncertain times of an election period.It was important for us to understand strategy. For a long time I kept thinking that all we had to do was revisit our mission and vision statements and that this would provide a good sense of our firm’s strategic direction.For instance, the part in our mission statement that says “we seek to be a leader in our industry by executing the best public relations and communications projects, within the time frames demanded by the clients, using the most up-to-date technology to deliver strategic PR results and solutions” was an aspiration and not a strategy.Sure, it inspired us to make a large investment in technologically superior public relations software. That act in itself supported our mission but it did not tell us what unique position our firm occupied.We had put the proverbial cart before the horse.One Harvard corporate strategist writes that “a company’s definition of strategy is important because it predefines choices that will shape decisions and actions the company takes”.“Vision and mission statements should not be confused with strategy. Companies may spend months negotiating every word, and the results may be valuable as a corporate statement of purpose, but they do not substitute for strategy.”To get to the heart of our corporate strategy, we had to ask ourselves some hard questions; questions you seldom have time to ask if you’re in the trenches managing every aspect of the business, like “What are you offering your customers that is different from your competitors?”So, too, is knowing what you have going for you that enables your company to do something better than the competition – and knowing if there is a viable market where the answers to those two questions intersect.Our accountant was crucial to hammering out our strategic vision.We made an in-depth strong quantitative analysis with her and it gave us a clear picture of where we were and where we were going.Making the connection between income and balance sheet was critical.Importance of persistence So, too, was solidifying and inventing some new best practices for how we intended to operate our business. Neglecting best practice is tantamount to deciding the pace at which you will complete a 50-mile hike and not having the right equipment to meet your goal.Now that we are in the third year of building on our strategy, I have seen the importance of persistence and continuity. I once read that the direction you’ve chosen should be pursued for two to three years, or else your actions become meaningless.Acquiring our new PR software means that we hope to grow in new directions, but we have decided not to put growth before strategy for fear that any unexpected demand for our services in the beginning will not be sustained.Oh, don’t forget to share your strategies after your retreat. I always take information back to my employees.We may be a small firm now, but it is critical that everyone understand the strategy and align their actions with that strategy every day. After all, part of our strategic vision is not to remain small for too long.

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