Get this wrong and your business will definitely struggle. Vision, executed thru tactics, is the roadmap that your company must follow to be successful. If you plot the roadmap incorrectly, you will end up in the wrong location, or worse - end up as a wreck on the side of the road. I will illustrate with two examples.
A Vision is a clearly articulated destination for a business. Generally, this Vision is captured in the form of a Vision Statement. However, the Vision, in short, should describe a futuristic place for your business. The Vision needs to be clear and realistic. This is where the C-suite executives earn their pay. With a poorly articulated Vision, they are sure to pave a path with tactics to the wrong destination. The Vision for a company, once established, is very rarely changed. This is why the company was founded, and while over longer periods (decades) it may “shift”, a well-crafted Vision is your anchor point and is not expected to waiver much.
Strategy is where the Vision is clarified with more specific mid term goals in mind. For example, Denver Colorado had a Vision to build a new international gateway called the Denver International Airport (DIA). Similarly, the German government has a Vision to maintain a state of the art naval fleet. Both of these Visions are well thought and researched. The Strategy must then break the Vision into reasonable bite-sized pieces. For example, in Denver, one element of the strategy was to develop a baggage handling system that would significantly reduce costs and speed up baggage handling as part of their state-of-the-art gateway. Others elements of the strategy may have included information about number of flights the airport would like to handle 5 years in the future, ability to operate in bad weather, and so forth. In Germany they decided to build a new class of warship that was faster, required less manpower, etc. as replacement for an aging fleet.
Now for Tactics.
Tactics are shorter term and are typically housed in your annual Operating Plan. Here is where the rubber begins to meet the road. If an element of the Strategy is to increase speed and efficiency of baggage handling, then we set goals for executing on this for the near term. Executing on this Strategy will require specific milestones selected for this year (and perhaps rolling into the next) that MUST be executed, otherwise we fail to meet the strategic intent. The tactics must have actionable goals with clear parameters, costs, timelines and so forth. For example, design the warship with the tactic, for this year, to complete the blueprint for what the builder must deliver. At this point strategy becomes translated into actions. If the design (of either the baggage system or warship) includes open actions for technology that does not exist, where research is still lacking, then the tactics are already in jeopardy. How can you deliver something that has no plan or predecessors to develop the plan? This happens all the time and is the source of corporate tension over money (you are spending too much) and time (you are running behind schedule). This is a subject for later.
While there are many great overviews written about this funnel from Vision to implementation, companies and governments continue to misfire. In the case of the German warship, the F-125 was finally delivered in January 2018 and it was declared that it does not work. As for DIA, the baggage system was built, but it was never used because of systems failures and they reverted to the same systems used with humans and ultimately this impacted achieving their Strategic intent. They still opened the airport, and it works well, but without the cost and time saving they wanted. It is still too early to know what will happen with the multibillion-dollar warship that does not work, it was recently returned to the shipbuilder.
The Vision-Strategy-Tactics paradigm must flow for your company to be successful.
In the two previous cases the Vision was clear, but the failures occurred somewhere between Strategy and Tactics! No business is easy, and there are inevitably tactics that are hard to implement. However, aligning your Vision and Strategy to drive your Tactics should be clear and well understood. Without this flow you will ultimately end up in a place you were not intending and not always a good one.
Up next “Inspect Your Vision Statement for Flaws”.