The Ability to Sustain Strategic Position, Intention and
The Strategy-Power Connection: A Proposed
- How do we point our resources to move
from where we are to where we want to be?
- How do we sustain direction in the midst of
- Where do we want to go?
- Where do we think they want to go?
- Where are we
(financially, operationally, marketing, strategy
- Where are they (customers, competitors)?
Friends and Enemies of
Establishing and Sustaining
Positioning, Intention and
Direction (or, why we need
Clarity vs Confusion
Fact vs Fiction
The Future vs The Familiar
Challenge vs Comfort
Action vs Awareness
Excellence vs Effectiveness
Momentum, Inertia, Gravity
positioning, intentionalizing and directing
- PURPOSES -
Persistent pursuit- OPENNESS -
… to new observations
… to differing opinions
… to internal changes
… to external opportunities - WHOLENESS -
Cause and effect relationships
Differentiating symptoms from agents
Unity of parts/divisions of organization
Past, present and predicted connections- EXCELLENCE -
… in execution
… in empowering
… in efficiency
… in ethicality - RESILIENCY -
Turning error into education
Turning dreams into doing
Turning nodes into networks
Turning org purpose into personal passion
THE CASE FOR POWER
• Strategic management seeks many goals – one of those is
for the organization to be efficacious.
• “Efficacious” means “having the power to produce a
desired effect.” It refers to some idea or some object or
some person being potent or able to cause some result.
• Strategic management seeks to enable an organization to
be powerful – to have the ability to cope with the present
forces with which it is contending and to shape the future
the organization will face.
20 Principles for Strategic Power -
• What follows in this discussion is a collection of 20
principles (at this point – more may be added), that provide
a framework for understanding the perspectives and
practices that tend to increase an organization’s power.
• This list was derived in part from The Forty Eight Laws of
Power, authored by Robert Greene (Penguin Books, New
York, 1998). However, the greater part of the material
reflects a great deal of my creative freedom – thus much of
the material has been altered in ways that the author might
not recognize or agree with!
20 Principles for Strategic Power -
• It is important to note that this list is “in process” and new
strategic power principles and perspectives will be added.
• Finally, while these insights were originally created by
myself for application in organizational strategy contexts, I
believe they offer value in other arenas such as
learning/teaching, Biblical leadership and healthcare.
The Power of Flexibility
• Strategic power is found in flexibility rather than in
formidability. While resource adequacy does matter, and
while absolute size does matter in some industries, in most
cases resource adaptability or agility matters more.
• Organizations live in a fast changing and rapidly evolving
environment. New challenges arise continually and past
solutions have a shorter and shorter “active life.”
• Thoughtful strategic planning matters – nimble strategic
responsiveness matters as much or more.
The Power of Reputation
• In today’s multi-channel and responsive communication’s
environment, strategic influence depends on organizational
reputation. Being known as a quality organization is an
invaluable resource that should be protected at all costs.
• Managers are stewards of an organization’s reputation for
being a dependable partner with customers, clients and even
competitors. Dependability means that others can rely on the
organization to be fair in its dealings externally AND internally.
• Reputation is a fragile thing – it takes years to build, yet can be
destroyed in days through ethical compromise, greed, and
arrogance. Once lost, reputation can be impossible to rebuild.
The Power of Initiative
• A key purpose of strategy is to allow the organization’s
future to be caused by the organization rather than such a
future being the consequence of things outside the
organization’s control. Strategy seeks to make and shape
the future rather than just taking whatever the future may
• Competitive advantage almost always goes to those who
fight inertia (“We’ve never done it that way
before!”), insecurity (“What if something goes
wrong?”), inaction (“let’s wait until we get more
information.”) or incapacity (“We could never do that.”)
• Ten initiatives are worth a thousand intentions.
The Power of Vision
• We will never likely achieve what we cannot imagine. Our reach
rarely exceeds the range of our vision. Bold vision underwrites
bold action – timid vision will doom us to trivial action.
• When customers, employees, and other stakeholders see how
the strategic performance we envision is linked to a mighty
goal, it calls forth the heroic energy and engagement that might
bring about enormous impact.
• Strategic leaders empower others by calling them to “big hairy
audacious goals.” (BHAGS)
The Power of Action
• Both walk AND talk matter – but walk matters much more. We
win through actions, not through arguments. Articulating what
we hope to gain is useful – acting to secure what we want to
gain is essential.
• Organizations can spend their time in speculating and
predicting what might happen IF.” or, they can investigate and
build on what actually has happened in response to their
• In short – research about a plan can help; but looking at the
results of an actual initiative helps much more.
The Power of Uncertainty
• For some, uncertainty is an excuse for not acting. For
powerful strategic leaders, uncertainty is a condition within
which they act anyway. There is a positive relationship
between risk and reward.
• One of the key purposes of strategy is not to eliminate the
risk of the unknown – it is, rather, to allow the organization
to take the right risks through the right actions at the right
• A carefully considered strategy allow encourages risk
taking in the unknown. Waiting for complete certainty, or
moving only under conditions of low risk, dooms an
organization to failure.
The Power of Infection
• Organizations rarely die from catastrophes and climatic
disasters. Instead, they die deaths of a thousand small
wounds, almost all of them self-inflicted.
• The wounds of momentum (“We’ve always done that way
here!”), inertia (“We’ve never done it that way here!”),
gravity (“Don’t worry – its just a little bit slower or lower!”)
and entropy (“It doesn’t really matter anyhow!”), sap our
energy and vitality – like a hidden infection that lowers our
ability to fight off disease.
• What are colds to the strong, become pneumonia to the
The Power of Dependency
• When customers and supply chain members depend on
us, we gain great strategic advantage.
• There is a difference between a customer or value chain
member WANTING what we have to offer verses
HUNGERING for what we offer.
• We build dependency by knowing what customers really
aspire to and what value chain members expect.
• Sustainable and profitable business partnerships are
based on shared dependence and shared trust.
The Power of Self-Interest
• While mercy and gratitude are appeals with some possible
potency, the most potent force in building an alliance or
partnership is to provide and promote that which will benefit the
other so they see what can be gained for him/herself.
• Never confuse your needs with the needs and desires of the
other. Others deal with us based on what THEY can get or
• Self-interest is a powerful lever to use – it means we have to
successfully show how our capabilities help others to meet their
responsibilities, how our solutions help other solve their
problems, and how our expertise is relevant to enriching their
experience with us.
The Power of Surprise
• Organizations that build a basis for sustainable greatness
seek to build the capacity to surprise customers and
• For customers, successful companies seek to increase
their capacity to deliver WOW! That means experiences
which exceed their expectations and provide extraordinary
• For competitors, surprise means stepping out of the routine
and regular, the established industry practices, to seek
entrepreneurial innovation that opens up the opportunity to
be game changers in product and process in ways that are
difficult to imitate.
The Power of Alliances
• Some organizations develop a protective, fortress mentality.
Customer concerns are seen as ungrateful complaining. Supply
chain member concerns are seen as problematic partnerships.
Employee dissatisfaction is viewed as temper tantrums from
ignorant and ungrateful children.
• Strategically effective organizations build bridges rather than
barriers, and connections rather than constraints.
The Power of Alliances
• Fortresses are symbols of weakness and isolation – of a desire
to protect our own power and prestige (real of imagined) in the
present, rather than to connect and thrive in a community of
• Real and sustainable strategic power is found in interaction and
circulation among partners. In times of uncertainty and danger
we must fight the desire to turn inward, and engage in actions
that allow us to be more accessible and connected.
The Power of Concentration
• No organization can effectively be everything to everyone – in
fact, few organizations can be many things to many people.
• Strategic power requires focusing selected resources and
capabilities on selected points of leverage to overpower
selected competitors in reaching and serving selected
• It is more effective and efficient to target and deeply dominate a
niche (or a limited number of niches) than to broadly and
superficially touch a broad array of markets.
• Diffusion and division distract and dissipate – real power always
exists in concentrated form. Prize intensity more than extensity.
The Power of Purpose
• We are most likely to achieve or accomplish what we resolve to
achieve or accomplish. While we may stumble into success
through luck (like pulling a handle on a slot machine), we are
more likely to stumble into failure.
• Purpose arouses passion, clarifies ends and
means, establishes priorities, and motivates excellence at the
individual, interpersonal and institutional levels.
• Purpose is the difference between intentions and intensity.
• Strategic purposes that are clear, compelling and
communicated consistently help drive strategic performance.
The Power of Re-Creation
• Organizations that endure must engage in the process of continually
forging a new identity. An organization’s identity is found in its
answers to the following questions:
– Who are our customers/clients and what are their aspirations and
– How do we create value for our customers?
– What are the essential points of our advantage over our competitors?
– What are the aspirations and expectations of our primary and secondary
• These questions should engage an organization in a continuing
dialogue because customers, competitors and the community of
shareholders and stakeholders are constantly changing their
aspirations (what they want for themselves) and expectations (what
they want from us).
• Strategic power requires continuous adaptation through constant re-
The Power of Boldness
• Customers, employees shareholders and stakeholders want
something significant and powerful to believe in and invest in.
• EVERYONE respects and admires boldness. Timidity only
generates uncertainty and discomfort.
The Power of Boldness
• At the individual level people seek leaders who are confident
and courageous. At the interpersonal level, people seek to be
relationships that encourage certainty and excellence. At the
institutional level successful strategy is rooted in a compelling
sense of efficacy and energy.
• Boldness is contagious – timidity is infectious. Timidity is inner-
directed – boldness is outer-directed. Timidity seeks to avoid
problems – boldness seeks to engage opportunities. While
timidity hides behind barriers, boldness walks confidently
• More battles are won by audacity than by caution.
The Power of Ends
• The ending of a thing is everything.
• Always begin with the end in mind. KNOW what success looks
like and be prepared to paint a picture of that success to others
that is vivid and compelling.
• Plan all the way through the end – take into account all the
possible consequences you can imagine along with all the
obstacles and twists of fortune you might face.
• Then gently nudge and guide fortune and help determine the
future by seeing success beyond the barriers.
• Your desired conclusion must be crystal clear, and you must
keep in at the forefront of your thinking.
The Power of Timing
• HOW to act is the science of strategic management –
WHEN to act is the art of strategic management.
• A sense of timing is required to know that
There is a time for ideas to be born, and a time for them to die
There is a time to plant and a time to uproot what has been planted
There is a time to tear down and a time to build up
There is a time to search and a time to abandon that search
There is a time to keep and a time to throw away
There is a time to tear apart and a time to sew together
There is a time for conflict and a time for peace
• Leaders are orchestra maestros – a sense of timing is not
useful – it is essential.
The Power of Caution
• The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the
heat of victory arrogance and overconfidence can drive us past our
• Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop, look listen and learn before
carefully planning your next step.
• The essence of strategy is controlling what comes next.
• Success can breed an aura of invincibility and the belief that we are
• The truly powerful vary their rhythms and patterns, change
courses, adapt to new circumstances and learn to improvise. They do
not allow their future to be held hostage to their past.
• Bad luck is actually better than good luck. Bad luck can teach
valuable lessons about patience, timing and the need to be prepared
for adversity. Good luck deludes us in the opposite direction, making
us think that our brilliance and inevitability can carry us through.
The Power of Urgency
• Strategy seeks to bring the future into the present – it seeks to
make the desired future compelling enough to generate the
necessary present action to bring that future about.
• Strategic managers stand astride two worlds – the world of
present action and the world of future hoped for results. The
aim of a strategic plan is to create awareness and enthusiasm
for the future sufficient to motivate action in the present.
• While the future cannot be dictated, it can be shaped. Shaping
the future always requires starting action in the present.
And, action in the present requires a sense of urgency.
• Strategy helps envision a future that is both near and dear
enough to cause action in the present.
The Power of Understanding
• Organizations are awash in data and waist deep in
information (reports summaries). What is often in shortest
supply is understanding.
• Understanding occurs when truth is united with insight.
• In a perverse way, organization leaders often exhibit an
aversion to the truth, especially if that truth challenges what
they WANT the truth to be.
• Similarly, organization leaders often have far less insight
into how things “really are around here” than they ever