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Strategy Execution Terms: A Metalworking Approach

Goals. Objectives. KPIs. OKRs. Metrics. Success Factors. Vision. Mission. Purpose. And then there’s the elusive “Value Proposition.” Companies use these terms differently, and departments use them differently within the same company. Does this vocabulary matter? If it does matter, why?

We believe that it is ultimately irrelevant which terms you choose to use. What does matter is that you use the concepts to forge links, ones that can create a strong, sturdy chain. This chain is the logic that generates meaning and commitment in your people.

Let’s start at one end of the chain, where leadership has the sole responsibility of mixing the elements to make the alloy that creates those strong links. Think of a metalworker, working diligently to shape and reshape metals to create something useful. A business leader is doing something similar with the concepts that help communicate a brand’s value.

Let’s look at Vision, Mission, and the oft-misunderstood Value Proposition.1_vision

Many organizations blend these concepts, often purposely. Can that blend work? Yes -- as long as you include the three elements to create a solid alloy for this link of the chain. As long as you create this logic, it doesn’t matter if you have one link or three:  

  • What the future looks like.
  • What your company does to build that future.
  • Why any customer should care that what you do is better or different.

The next link is Strategy, which is the How.

2_strategy

Four elements make up this alloy: crystal clarity on who the customers are; how you are going to find them; how you will create a relationship with them; and how you will keep them happy.

Next up is Success Factors.

3_success_factors

Whether you call these “Key” or “Critical” doesn’t matter, but they need to comprehensively define the conditions you must create in order for the How (the Strategy) to have a fighting chance. Examples are a high-quality product and an acceptable level of customer service.

Things can get really murky when goals, objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), and metrics make their way into our metaphorical metalworking shop. Don’t get sucked into theoretical distinctions here. It boils down to deciding where you as a leader will direct your attention to ensure those Success Factors happen. The alloy for this link needs two elements – direction and measurement. One is long-term (“grow revenue”) and the other is short-term (“increase market share by 10% by end of quarter” or “improve customer satisfaction to 80% by end of year.”) Whether you want to call those goals, objectives, or another name isn’t important. Your clarity is what matters — and how it links to the rest of the chain.

chain

As long as you have all the elements to create the alloys that work for each of these links, the vocabulary your company uses is not important. What matters is that everyone in the organization understands the links in that chain — and that what they do is part of the alloy that holds it all together. Just as a metalworker forges material to create something functional and elegant, so can you as a leader wield these concepts, no matter what you call them, to guide your employees in building a team as strong as steel.

For more on an Executing Strategy business simulation and leadership development solution, click here.


Kristin Leydig Bryant is an expert facilitator with Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen, and strategy execution.