“Watch the blade, not the soldier, Madoc told me many times. Steel never deceives.”— Holly Black

“Alan, we could really use your help in running our upcoming strategy sessions,” sighed one of my long-time best clients.  This client does very well at many things, and I was thrilled to be able to help.  I said, “Certainly.  Can you provide me the results of any previous strategy sessions you have held?”

Over the next day, I received the results from the previous three strategy sessions.  As I read the documents, I was stunned.  Although the words were different, each of the strategy sessions said essentially the same thing.  The leadership knew very clearly where they wanted to take the organization.  Their vision had not wavered across the three years.  However, they had failed to make any progress on getting to that new paradigm.

I went back to the executive and explained that their problem was not setting a direction. Their problem was in getting there. We transformed the strategy event into a strategy and “move forward fast” event.  

The following are a few of the key decisions I had them make.

  • To achieve the new paradigm, what key things do each of you need to create and do?  
  • What expectations do you need to set for your suppliers, customers, and the people who work for you?
  • What training do you need to provide?
  • How much money and time do you need to invest in each of these things to happen?

With those established, I moved them to the two most critical questions:

  • What will you take out of your current schedules and current activities to make this new paradigm happen?
  • And the most important question of all:  What commitments can you accomplish in the next two weeks?

They each promised to each other as the leaders of this organization to make it happen.  They further committed to meet every two weeks to decide on the next steps to ensure success.

Another time an executive asked me for my definition of “strategy.” 

I said, “It is simple. Where do you put your time?”

She said, “Oh my. We have a strategy problem.”

The team I was working with was successful in changing where they put their time.

I have three questions for you.

  • What will you take out of your current schedules and current activities to make this new paradigm happen?
  • And the most important question of all:  What commitments can you accomplish in the next two weeks?

Yours in the pursuit of excellence,

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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