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Put Your Strategy on a Diet

by Pascal Dennis
July 2, 2014

Put Your Strategy on a Diet

by Pascal Dennis
July 2, 2014 | Comments (3)

"More companies die from over-eating than from starvation." – Dave Packard

In strategy deployment, what we in the lean world call hoshin kanri, job one is to slim things down. 

When it comes to goal setting in most organizations, “Just one more…” seems to be the compulsion. I often joke about the "Critical Few Hundred."

The result? Obese, lumbering strategies with no hope of success. Organizations approaching diabetic coma. Alienated team members. For leadership, it’s easy to say, “One more thing? Sure, just add it to the pile!” All the while people are thinking, “You pretend to give us a reasonable strategy, and we’ll pretend to do it.”

How do otherwise smart people behave this way? In part, it’s a buffering effect. “We don’t really know what’s happening, so we’ll keep pressing buttons. Something is bound to work!”

A second cause is an unfortunate, yet all too common mental model: “If I jam the pipeline full of stuff, more will come out the other end! Things will flow!” Too many of us operate from this mental model at all levels within our organizations.

This of course contravenes the laws of production physics. The pipeline turns to cement and nothing flows. Unsophisticated leaders may then resort to exhortation (or worse). Which is akin to asking your team members to jump out the window, and after they crash, telling them, "Flap your arms faster!"

How do you avoid this situation? Most organizations need to put their strategy on a diet. In strategy, as in so many things, less really is more. How do we put our strategy on a diet? Here’s a hint: the most important word in Strategy Deployment is No. Strategy is not about deciding what’s important (it’s all "important"). Strategy is about choosing.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  hoshin kanri,  strategy
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Sanjay Kapoor July 02, 2014
Love Dennis' mental model of shoving more stuff down the pipleline!

In addition to loss of focus, a profusion of strategies may also suggest that the level at which one is trying to define the strategy is not the right level.

It is ultimately about choosing

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Pascal Dennis July 03, 2014
1 Person AGREES with this reply
Excellent point, Sanjay.  If senior leaders fail to 'choose', then their subordinates are likely to choose for them.  A profusion of unfocused activity results.

Strategy is about saying "No".



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Vance Butler July 05, 2014
Pascal, you saved the best for last! Saying No! Can't believe how hard this is for most organizations.  Being able to say no, means you truly understand your strategy.  If you know where you're going as an organiztion, avoiding the distractors that come at you everyday is so critical, especially when you're resource constrained.  What I have seen is that organizations use their strategy as a filter to separate out the useful, necessary work from the "critical few hundred" (which by the way I like that term) Great post keep up the good fight

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