There is much debate as to whether Peter Drucker actually said to Mark Fields, then CEO of Ford Motor Company in March 2000.
Regardless, the quote is used extensively these days to emphasize the importance of how a company operates over the why.
Yet it’s not an entirely accurate statement, because without a clear strategy—a plan that outlines the why and the what an organization wishes to achieve, it’s almost impossible the define the how that’s required to deliver it.
Overemphasizing culture alone is pointless; if founders and leaders aren’t guiding business growth with a series of stretch but SMART goals—measurable milestones, there won’t be a business culture to manage.
Both culture and strategy are equally important, require equal amounts of time and development, and you should continually invest in them to ensure your business is successful.
The issue that I see most often is an over-investment in trying to craft the perfect strategy, while under-investing in building a culture that’s committed to getting the job done. It’s a situation that causes confusion, stress, and it becomes an excuse for productivity and performance issues.
The perfect strategy doesn’t exist, so keep it lean
Organizations used to write 10-year strategic business plans, which might seem crazy in today’s ever-changing technology dominated landscape, but honestly, it was crazy then too.
They were almost always out of date within nine months, and the six months that had been spent on creating them was largely—and frustratingly—irrelevant. In today’s ever-changing world, it’s three years at the most, but if you’re not continuously reviewing your plan against your progress so you can respond to changes and opportunities, you’re not getting the full benefit of the strategic planning process.
In my view, a good strategy—a lean business plan—should set a direct and achievable marker for the year(s) ahead, with specific milestones to check progress. It should light a spark in people, and set the organization apart, regardless of business sector or industry.
Your strategic lean plan should be simple, straight-forward, and be grounded in honesty and reality. It should not be focused on short-term fixes or unachievable projects, but instead on medium to long term investments with an element of risk, that evolve the organization into something better and more resilient than before.
A critical part of building a strategy that works is reviewing it regularly—compare your forecasts and plans against what’s actually happening. Take a hard look at emerging threats and opportunities (try doing a SWOT analysis) that might require you to make nimble changes quickly.
It’s simply not possible to build a perfect strategy, but it is possible to build an unrealistic one. Without realism, there’s no passion. Without passion, there’s no action.