You know you need a strategy; you’ve seen the magic that happens when everyone is rowing in the
same direction. Creating that vision and direction seems so much harder when you’re at the helm;
everyone wants the best plan, but oftentimes, their ideas and convictions don’t appear to mesh well.
A strong strategy gives guidance for the future, without penning people into a set path. It lays out the
vision and goals, providing inspiration and guidance so that each individual is free to find their own ways to contribute. That strategy needs clear measurement as well, so we can tell how we’re progressing
along the way.
How to get there, though? How do we build a strategy that everyone can get behind, that results in
measurable progress toward our goals?
You’ve got smart people….why so much disagreement?
In order to truly nail the strategy, leadership has to go in with the assumption that their people are
smart, and that they all want to succeed. Sometimes it seems like your people are disagreeing, when
they’re actually just coming at the problem from different perspectives. By the nature of their job, each
person is more familiar with particular aspects of the organization. The folks in Operations understand
delivery and up-time, but they’re less familiar with how marketing and sales work. Sales leadership
understands how simple or difficult it might be to find buyers for an offering, but they have little to no
understanding of how that product would be designed, built, and delivered.
When we start having conversations about strategy, each person brings their personal awareness into
the conversation. It’s leadership’s job to ensure that the pieces are put together in a cohesive way, so
that Sales has an understanding of the risk to Operations, and Marketing can respect the uncertainty of
design and development.
At first glance, it may appear that your leaders don’t agree or even understand each other – recognize
that it’s just a differential in what they’re paying attention to, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the big
Value their Unique Perspectives
To unify the team and develop a cohesive approach to strategy, leadership must value each person’s
unique perspective. Understand that you cannot create good strategy in a vacuum! We have to discuss
the ideas, and garner the knowledge of each person’s perspective. Help Sales understand Marketing;
help Operations understand Development. Be careful not to lose or silence these unique perspectives,
or they will reappear later!
Once upon a time, I was managing a software product. Sales and Customer Service were strongly
requesting some way to track usage of the product, and to control piracy in the field. I dutifully
researched different ways of achieving that, and decided to implement a keyed system that would control access without being obtrusive for the user or adding too much of a burden to Development. I
had the early discussions, and then pulled the team together to discuss. A few hours later, I had a
frustrated call from our IT department, which was also in charge of production and delivery. They sternly informed me that implementing that key into their systems would be very expensive and time-
consuming, and require more resources than they had available at that time. The project was stalled and
Seek those unique perspectives early! Look for the wisdom that will guide your forward direction, and
remember to look from a myriad of perspectives in order to see the big picture.
Inject Market Knowledge to Create Unity
Finally, recognize that the voices on your team are all from inside your company. They may have
interactions with the market, but those interactions are often hidden beneath their personal ideas and
interpretations. To ensure the best possible strategy, we must find facts in our markets. Bring these
facts into the discussion, and let them serve as the final measuring stick to compare all ideas against.
Raw market data can be garnered through market interviews and observations, win/loss analysis, and
third party research. Ensure that each persona’s voice is represented in the data, and regularly refer to
that data as you form strategy.
The best strategies I’ve seen are created in organizations with a culture of market awareness. Every
person regularly and consistently seeks market facts, and individuals are taught to communicate with
those facts (rather than personal, and often inaccurate, opinions).
To create a successful strategy, start with smart people who understand your business. Add market facts
— raw data gathered from buyers and users who look like your intended audience. Go into strategy
discussions with the assumption that your people are motivated to succeed, and value their unique
perspectives. Let market facts be the arbiter of disagreements, and you will be on the right path for
creating a strategy that guides, informs, and leads the organization to success.