Shortcut Direction Setting with Strategy Statements

Jumping into a big discussion about the future of your organization can feel daunting — and sometimes you need a new and improved way to align and focus your team.

Enter the “2022 strategy statement!”

Strategy statements are an easier, lighter weight option to lead the way. Let’s dig into what they are and how to create yours.

Shortcut Direction Setting: Strategy Statements

At a foundational level, every great strategic plan articulates a long-term vision supported by incremental annual plans that should be reviewed and refreshed quarterly. If you’re following the agile planning cycle, it means you’re reviewing and making gradual shifts all the time.

Even if you’re following an agile planning cycle, you’re likely updating your organization’s immediate overall focus at least annually. So being clear about what your team needs to focus on now is particularly important for all the external factors leaders face today.

Instead of trying to write the perfect strategic direction, try using a singular strategy statement instead.

What’s a Strategy Statement?

A strategy statement is just a straightforward articulation of focus for your organization for the coming year (or shorter if that’s what you need).

It’s NOT an elaborate, wordy statement that encompasses everything your organization needs to accomplish. Instead, it’s just one sentence or phrase that explicitly states what your organization-wide focus needs to be right now.

Pro Tip:

The simpler the statement, the clearer it usually is.

Real-World Examples

We didn’t create the idea of strategy statements; we stumbled onto them during a recent client facilitation! This idea came from Shawn Gallagher from Peterbilt Truck Parts and Equipment and Silver State International in Sparks, Nevada.

Shawn has been using these statements as the start of their strategic planning effort for the better part of two decades. Each year, he comes up with an unambiguous statement of intent to kick off the organization and department-wide planning process.

And you want to know what? It works. Here are four excellent examples of Shawn’s strategy statements and the resulting output for the year:

  • Two Brands, One Plan – United two different dealerships and cultures to focus on a single direction.
  • Making a Difference – Both companies received philanthropic awards that year.
  • Going from Good to Great – Was first in the nation for service and parts training out of over 500 full-service dealerships.
  • Success through our People – Addressed internal culture and relationships that created a more positive employee experience.

Pro Tip:

Strategy statements must cascade to the different perspectives of your plan. For example, If you’re using the balanced scorecard, your team needs to have the capability to create supporting objectives and results from a financial, customer, operational, and people perspective.

The Difference Between Strategy Statements and Vision Statements

The critical difference between strategy statements and vision statements is simple! Vision statements articulate a longer-term direction for 3-5 years. Strategy statements are annual (or shorter) statements that create more immediate focus to support your long-term direction.

Vision Statements

Sources to Identify Your Strategy Statement

#1 SWOT Analysis

The easiest and most common place to identify your strategy statement is from your SWOT analysis. Looking at the internal strengths and weaknesses against the external opportunities and threats provides a wealth of opportunity for your planning team to identify a single focus area. But, honestly, the most challenging part of using your SWOT analysis for your strategy statement is picking just one area of focus – therefore, we suggested Megatrends and Critical Opportunities below.

Pro Tip:

Need help completing your SWOT? Check out this free guide.

#2 Megatrends

We’re currently living through one of the most challenging (and interesting) times as a developed modern society. The megatrends in play as an output from the pandemic have certainly changed the way the world operates. Check out this post on megatrends if you need help identifying them with a PESTLE analysis.

Pro Tip:

Draft a strategy statement reflecting the biggest megatrend you need to address this year. Have you thought about talent retention, inflation, or your supply chain?

#3 Critical Opportunities to Seize

If you’ve recently identified a critical growth opportunity you need to seize, consider drafting a strategy statement to articulate that growth opportunity.

Pro Tip:

Need to decide what your most critical and attractive opportunity is? Check out this exercise.

#4 Staff Input/Feedback

We often refer to staff input and feedback as “wisdom from the crowd.” Feedback can either be informal (conversations, feedback) or formal (surveys). Either way, tune in to what’s whispered around the water cooler – it can lead to a great strategy statement that could change the trajectory of your organization or culture.

#5 From Within Your Leadership Team

Listen, we get it – sometimes trying to get your entire planning team to agree on a single focus area could be an unmanageable and unrealistic expectation. Sometimes it’s appropriate for your leadership team (or an even smaller group) to articulate the planning focus for the year. It’s not for every organization, but this is a perfectly acceptable approach to creating a strategy statement.

Putting Pen to Paper

As you identify and draft your strategy statement, resist the urge to copywrite it as a team. It usually leads to disagreements about wording and phrasing, rather than the substance itself. Have a dedicated person write it instead and share it with the leadership team later.

Remember, a great strategy statement checks these boxes:

  • One sentence or phrase. The simpler, the better. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and fluffy language. Be clear and direct.
  • It has organization-wide focus. It has to be understood and cascaded to everyone in your organization. It’s ok to be specific about growth or trajectory, but it needs to have a common understanding.
  • Focus for 2022. Think about the future you need to create in 2022 to help achieve your long-term vision.

Using your Strategy Statement

Okay, you’ve written your strategy statement for 2022. Now what?

Use it everywhere you possibly can! Here are places we would recommend fitting it in:

  • During the rest of your planning. The most obvious place to use it is within your own plan. Once it’s done, you need to roll it out across your teams so they can create supporting OKRs for the year and quarter.
  • In your one-page strategic pan. It should be at the top of your one-page plan as big as you can make it.
  • In every quarterly review and refresh. It should be in every quarterly refresh agenda. Also put it in the title slide of your decks for anything and everything strategy review and refresh.
  • In your monthly staff communication. In every monthly reflection and outlook email, include it! As you update your team on their performance and progress, tie it back to where you’re going in 2022 and why.
  • Anywhere and everywhere. The more visible it is, the more likely your team is to remember it.

Remember, the more your team interacts with your strategy statement, the more likely they are to keep it in focus for the rest of 2022. Happy strategizing!

One Comment

  1. Raghavan says:

    very well explained, i will adopt this idea

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