Strategic Essence: The Missing Ingredient in Business Improvement

Strategic Essence: The Missing Ingredient in Business Improvement

“Strategy” is a widely abused and seldom understood term

In my work I often encounter sub-optimal business improvement projects, most of which are conceptualized to be “strategic”. I sift through articles and marketing material and visit websites where I frequently encounter the word “strategy” scattered all over the place in seemingly inappropriate contexts. One must conclude that there is no accepted, coherent, congruent definition of the word. The dictionary definition is similarly. Some people equate strategy with “wheeling and dealing”, while others regard it as a plan or a way of doing things. At times “strategy” is peddled as an important-sounding word to impress people. Ultimately, strategy is, in fact, a widely discounted word.

Very few people understand what strategy is. And very few people know how to “do” strategy, whatever that means.

Strategy is the essence of the organization and how it thrives

In a recent article I suggested that “strategy is the essence of the organization and how it thrives”. Strategy is what is unique, that which differentiates the organization, what makes it stand out so that it attracts and retains customers.

“Introduce strategic essence thinking into everything that you do.”

Strategy is that essential element that has brought the organization this far and that will propel it into the future. Strategy entails all the right actions that cause your customers to buy from you. It is the fundamental element that, if destroyed, will dismantle the organization. Conversely, strategy done right will propel your organization to thrive. Strategic essence is what differentiates your organization in the marketplace.

Without differentiation we do not have customers. When an organization cripples that which differentiates it, it loses its customers. On the other hand, when the organization enhances its competitive edge, refines it and takes it to the next level, customers flock through its doors.

The failure to understand these factors is why many executives find business improvement projects frustrating.

Every business improvement initiative must honor the strategic essence

Once you understand strategic essence, you begin to understand that any investment in the business must enhance and support its strategic essence. Every business improvement project should be guided by strategic essence which encapsulates the very core of what makes the organization successful.

Strategic essence originated intuitively from the founders who recognized a market need and filled it. Strategic essence embodies the differentiation and competitiveness of the organization. Indeed, organizations thrive because they are different. That said, it seems that just about every systems implementation I have seen, just about every management consulting intervention, focuses on operational “me too” stuff and gets in the way of the essence and competitiveness of the organization.

Understanding and applying strategic essence is a great opportunity for any organization embarking on a business improvement project today. Understanding strategic essence also provides any organization whose systems and operating procedures are slowing it down and getting in its way with an opportunity to turn things around.

Introduce strategic essence thinking into everything that you do, refocus your efforts and your investment and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Strategic essence should be central to the appointment of any firm of management consultants for any form of business improvement and the purchase of any system. Inherently, in detailed strategic planning – it is key to focus on the essence, to lead from the front and not to abdicate to technology or anyone else.

“If you cannot clearly define how a business improvement project will strengthen the essence of the business, don’t do it!”

Simply put, a major business improvement project done right can add huge value. Done wrong, it can put you out of business. Book a call with me to discuss your needs.

Everyone in your organization must know what the strategic essence of the business is

The strategic essence of your organization should be documented and widely communicated. Every member of staff, right down to the person who cleans the corridors, should understand the strategic essence of the organization and how it affects their role.

In the early days you may go so far as to put up posters — put a banner on the wall facing the desk of every manager, talk about strategic essence constantly until it has been totally integrated in the organizational culture and completely understood by everyone. This simple measure alone will improve the competitiveness, effectiveness (and profitability) of your organization.

Strategic essence should be the point of departure for EVERY project

By now I hope that it is apparent to you that the strategic essence is the point of departure for every business improvement project. If you cannot clearly define how a business improvement project will strengthen the essence of the business, don’t do it!

Remember Professor Malcolm McDonald’s massively important definition “if you do the right things well your organization WILL thrive”. Strategic essence is manifested by doing the right things, operations are about operationalizing the essence of the business very effectively.

In every decision, ask yourself whether you will be enhancing strategic essence. Once you are focused on strategic essence, sterile debates about what aspects of the business should be reengineered will fall away.

I hope that I have challenged you to think differently about your organization and its improvement projects.

I would welcome the opportunity to assist your organization to put the principles discussed in this article into practice.

My Services: Pulse Measurement | Strategic Planning Tool & Training | Facilitation | Coaching

I offer a one-day diagnostic Pulse Measurement intervention through a series of one hour interviews with your leadership team to assist you to lift out the unique strategic essence of your organization and the critical issues facing your strategic growth. Please book a complimentary consultation using the link at the foot of this article.

The 7 Critical Components of a Strategic Plan

Download my checklist “The 7 Critical Components of a Strategic Plan”

At present I am offering a complimentary Strategic Planning Checklist to enable you to critically evaluate your current strategic planning approach and identify opportunities for improvement. Visit for a free copy to download.

Webinar - Strategy: What is it? How to develop actionable plans

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I am also offering a one-and-a-half hour webinar video series which goes into my method, tool and approach as a benchmark of what I consider to be best practice. There is a six-minute executive summary which will introduce you to our methods.

The Strategic Planning Suite of tools and training videos are available for purchase on the links below the webinar.

Complimentary 30 minute Zoom consultation. We are also offering a free one hour Zoom call to discuss your questions and needs with regard to Strategic Planning please click here to book a complimentary consultation.

We are available to assist clients with their strategic planning requirements, including with the tool and method as well as video training material, troubleshooting services, coaching and facilitation. Click on the links above to learn more about my thinking in this field.

Dr James A Robertson
The Strategy Doctor