How to Make the Most of Your Company's Strategy

The art of Translating Top Management's Aspirations into Concrete Action on the Ground
Bungay, Stephen
Harvard Business School Press
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Business Review,January-February 2011,pp.132-140

Most organizations have strategic plans, these days, and create them through sometimes detailed and time-consuming processes. The resulting plan usually includes a vision and/or mission, a set of lofty goals and a number of measures and targets, finally approved months into the year they are supposed to cover, and only add to the confusion about what really matters to the business unit or department. And for many managers, the unanswered two-part question still remains: What do you want me to do or us to do? This article offers answers to those questions. It describes a process called strategy briefing, a technique derived from the military. Through it, managers and their reports can move together from the uncertainty surrounding unclear and/or complex goals and performance measures to clarity about just which objectives each person needs to focus on and in what order of priority. The briefing also helps managers set parameters for two variables that are keys to high performance: the extent to which people in an organization act in line with its leaders’ intentions, and how much freedom they have to take independent action. In essence, the briefing turns lofty strategic goals into a clear blueprint for execution. A single strategy briefing can help a team perform better, but the real magic happens when briefings roll down through an entire organization. When that occurs, the company's strategy is broken into a cascade of discrete but linked elements. In the end, people will be strategically aligned and operationally autonomous; a combination that is one of the hallmarks of high-performing organizations. The five steps of the strategy briefing process: 1. State your intent 2. Revise your intent in the context of your company’s situation 3. Determine which measures indicate whether you are achieving your goal 4. Define the tasks implied by your intent 5. Define the boundaries or constraints that limit your team.


CITATION: Bungay, Stephen. How to Make the Most of Your Company's Strategy . : Harvard Business School Press , . Harvard Business Review,January-February 2011,pp.132-140 - Available at:

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