What is strategy?
What is strategy?

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What is strategy?


A vision or strategic intent is a desired future state for the organisation (for example, to be the leading supplier in its product or service category). Some organisations use the terms ‘mission’ and ‘vision’ practically interchangeably, but it is useful to make a distinction between mission as concerning current purpose, and vision as focusing on the future. Vision or strategic intent is essential to leadership, as a way of rallying members of an organisation around a common cause (Kouzes and Posner, 2009).

In Activity 5 you’ll start to develop a better understanding of the role of vision in strategies.

Activity 5 Compare what two practitioners say about vision and its importance for their strategic success

Timing: Spend approximately 30 minutes on this activity.

Watch the two videos below. One is with Peggy Fleming, an Olympic skater, and the other is with Merv Hillier, managing director of Nuvision Consulting Group Inc. Compare what the two practitioners say about vision and its importance to their strategic success. Summarise your thoughts in Table 2.

Download this video clip.Video player: Peggy Fleming
Skip transcript: Peggy Fleming

Transcript: Peggy Fleming

[Music playing]
Peggy Fleming:
Well, I think the toughest challenge I had as an athlete were my nerves. And I was a real shy little girl, growing up. And for me to find the sport of figure skating at nine years old gave me a confidence that I felt inside of me, because I could do something easily, and I could do it well. Every time I’d go to practise, I would get better. And that’s fun, for a young kid.
But my first competition I entered, I ended up winning. And I thought, well, that’s easy. I wasn’t nervous at all. But then the second competition was, like, two weeks later. And it was a totally different outcome.
I came in dead last, and I was embarrassed. I wasn’t even thinking about the competition. I was just having fun. And I had the thrill of victory and the agony in defeat in my first month as a competitor. And I think it set the tone of, like, the fun of winning but the real agony of losing, because it’s very humiliating.
But then I started taking lessons and taking skating more seriously. And then I started getting more nervous. And I would get so nervous I would get sick. And I couldn’t eat all day long, or anything.
And I just still kept going to competitions. I still kept thinking that I can get over this. And this was before sports psychologists were working with athletes. It was just my own way of dealing with this problem, because you could be the best athlete in the world, but if you can’t perform under the pressure and the nerves, no one will ever know that.
So I knew I wanted to be the best. And I knew that I had to relax and had to use those nerves in a better way than just getting sick. So over the years I did get better and better at it. And it made me really focus when that feeling would start coming on, and I’d go – I’d try to push it down. But it made me stronger by dealing with that and learning about it by myself and not having a sports psychologist tell me how to do it. I had to figure it out myself.
A competitor is somebody that goes out thinking positive about themselves. You never go out there when they call your name and go, I hope I don’t fall. Well, you’re probably going to fall, if you go out with that attitude. So you have to go out with the attitude of positive thinking – that you can do it – and believe in yourself.
And I think that that was a good lesson for me, as a competitive athlete. But it’s still a good lesson for me today. Whenever I approach a job or something that I’m a little insecure about or I’m not sure that I can do, and I do get nervous about it, I do that same routine with myself. I make myself calm down, think about all the positive things that I have done in the past and that I do have the power to do it well, if I just focus and concentrate on what I’m doing.
[Music playing]
End transcript: Peggy Fleming
Peggy Fleming
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Download this video clip.Video player: Merv Hillier
Skip transcript: Merv Hillier

Transcript: Merv Hillier

LES50NS Skillsoft [Music playing].
Merv Hillier:
I remember when I joined CMA Ontario back in 2007. And in my first week when I joined, my management team came in to me and various individuals were very pointed in their question, ‘Merv, what’s your plan for this organisation?’ And as I dwelt on that question and thought, what are they really asking me? And when I considered it, I put the question a different way to myself. I said, by asking me what’s your plan for this organisation said to me that the organisation was of no purpose.
And so what they’re asking me is, we need to have a sense of purpose. And as we looked at the organisation in the previous eight or nine years, it really didn’t have a sense of purpose. It was fulfilling its mandate as a regulator, but it wasn’t really exploiting or leveraging its capacity or its capabilities. So it wasn’t really motivated to do anything more other than what was required of a regulator or an association.
So as I sat down, I said, OK, they’re looking for purpose. Now we call that in various words – we call it vision, for example. And people are tired of hearing about vision – you need a vision statement. And so I preferred we call it purpose. What is the purpose of this organisation?
So I sat down with the management team. So it wasn’t just simply Merv Hillier. It was Merv Hillier sitting down with the management team and said, let’s define what our purpose for this organisation is going to be over the next five years. And so very quickly came out, and we did the normal, which is here’s our vision statement, our mission statement. But what’s our purpose as an organisation? Purpose to our members, purpose to our stakeholders, purpose to our community? And how are we supposed to execute that purpose successfully?
And so what we do is we defined a purpose for the organisation. Now was how are we going to deliver on that? How we execute it? How do we communicate it? How do we get people to buy into it?
And I remember going back to some early days as I was president of a packaging company, seven years I spent in the consulting business. And now was time, really, for me to execute on my own what I’ve been teaching others, especially when I was going through consulting. And that is the alignment of strategy, organisational structure, and culture.
There was a book that I consider to be probably one the best business books out there for anybody to read. And it’s by Jim Collins, called Good to Great. And Jim Collins talks about the flywheel effect. In other words, how do you get momentum in an organisation? And in fact, what he was speaking to was the alignment of strategy, organisational structure, and culture.
And so I looked at that and put a programme together for CMA and said, here’s our direction, our purpose. And let’s outline it explicitly so our staff understands the purpose of the organisation. Now let’s take a look at the structure. Now that doesn’t mean, OK, what’s the organisational chart? But how do we do business here at CMA Ontario?
And so we redefined what the structure of our organisation was and should be, as it should support the strategic direction or purpose of the organisation. Now, there’s a third element. There was the culture.
What is the culture of this organisation? Is it performance driven? Do we have an effective performance measurement system in place? Do we have the resources that we need in order to affect on the strategy and as we try to execute? Do we have the mentality of coaching and mentoring our staff?
And as Collins said in his book as well – in fact, do we have the right people on the bus? And if we don’t, unfortunately they have to be moved on. So we looked at it as a management team. And we communicated this to our staff and said, here’s the purpose. Here’s the structure we’re going to use that’s aligned to our purpose. And here’s the culture that we’re going to put into place in order to make sure that we can execute successfully.
So we aligned strategy, we aligned organisational structure, and we aligned culture so that it was all working together. And again, if you go to Collins’ book, Good to Great, he talks about the flywheel. And we created momentum.
We make sure as well that the board was aligned to management. And we assured that the management was aligned to our staff, and that we were aligned to all of the stakeholders that were affecting our business. And we did that through putting in proper software, putting in systems, which is really the structure of the organisation.
And so that was 2007. So here we are, and we called it Vision 2012. So here we are now moving towards, in a few months, the end of Vision 2012, 30 June. And I looked back and said, how well did we do? So we had seven goals that were outlined. We had this vision statement about being recognised as the best for what we do.
And you know, if you take a look at some of the traditional measures yet, we doubled revenue in the space of four to five years. Four to five years ago, we were graduating only 400–500 CMAs or accountants – management accountants. This fall, in October, we’ll be graduating over 1100. Next year, we’ll be graduating over 1200 management accountants.
That would make us the largest producer, or institution, or educator in graduating management accountants, or accountants of any type, of any accounting body, CAs or CGAs, in any jurisdiction in Canada. So we were, four to five years ago, at the bottom of the list. We were only graduating 400–500. Our competition was graduating twice that many.
This year, our competition has fallen way back. In fact, we’re almost doing 50 per cent more than what they’re doing. And when I look at it and say – people say, ‘How did you do that?’ They look at me, ‘How did you do that?’ And I thought, I didn’t do anything.
What we did was put an organisation together that was focused on a sense of purpose. What’s our purpose? We made sure that we communicated that purpose from the top to shareholders, right down to the person that’s on the reception desk or in the storage room. We made sure that they understood the purpose or the vision, they understood how we’re going to do this, why we’re doing it, the resources that was required to do it. And even to the point where we’ve been able to sustain over the last four years in excess of $10 million of investment in this organisation that’s evident not only in our physical facilities, but in our IT improvements.
We’ve doubled our staff from 30. Now we’ve got 95, close to 100 – all in the space of four years. And people say, ‘How do you do it?’ I go back to the phrase, and it says, without a vision, people perish.
If an organisation – or you individually. If you don’t have a sense of purpose in your life, you’re going to drift. You’re going to be depressed. You’re not going to fulfil the possibility that is yours as an individual. It’s the same as an organisation.
The capacity, the capability of this organisation is defined in your ability as an individual to realise your own sense of purpose. And if I, as a leader, can create in you a sense of purpose in this organisation that harnesses the potential that you have, and then I bring that potential and get congruency of all the people in the organisation so that we have organisational purpose, then, as Collins says, you’re going to create such a momentum, that’s defined as the flywheel effect, that you will go from being good or mediocre to being great. And that’s what happened at CMA Ontario, and I’m very proud of it.
[Music playing]
End transcript: Merv Hillier
Merv Hillier
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Table 2 Importance of vision
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How did you get on? Peggy Fleming and Merv Hillier present different views of what vision is. To Peggy Fleming, vision is a desired state in athletics. It played an important role as it gave a strong impetus to her career as a skater. Ability to focus on the vision helped to bring it to reality.

Likewise, Merv Hillier considers vision as a synonym of purpose. It is essential because it helps to set the direction of an organisation. Organisations may realise their vision by means of alignment of strategy, structure and culture.


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