Nowhere are a CEO’s powers of judgment and discernment as important as they are here. Strategic choices are the big bets that will define the future of your company. Carve out a series of choices that the company cannot do in time, given its capabilities and capacity for change, and you set everyone up—including yourself as CEO—to fail.
KNOW • Success requires that you not rely on strategic plans to deliver the increase in value you want. Instead, create a bold ambition that sets a strong direction for your company. An aspirational vision rooted in the organization’s core values. A possible future that both embraces the realities of your current situation and inspires everyone to realize the company’s full potential.
DO • Create an ambition that is both huge AND possible. Define where you will play and how you will win. Assess the probability of success for each must win: commit to the best and most viable combination of strategic priorities that the company can do. And get the company running well—first—before you start running it fast.
Your work as CEO here is to wisely choose that ambition, the vital few activities that must be done (“must wins”) and the non-negotiables that need to be in place to realize it. With your leadership team, assess the organizational risks involved in fulfilling each of the big bets you want to place. Once your leadership team is aligned on the bold ambition and aggressive must wins, then start communicating your strategic choices company-wide to generate intense alignment around these big bets.
KNOW • Two things can kill your strategic choices: organizational readiness and culture. Do not assume your organization is ready to mobilize. If it can’t run fast now, injecting a new ambition and must wins will only confuse people and make things run slower. Before you start executing on your must win activities, get the company running well. Tighten ship. Go lean. Give everyone a “Compass” to follow: the new ambition, must wins and non-negotiables. This will globally declare what activities you want people to focus on and what standards of behavior you expect. With everyone knowing what the new game is and how to engage in it together, they can effectively run plays fast.
DON'T • Overreach.
Avoid the common tendency to assume everyone will engage fully without proof. Many will want to know you are fully committed before they consider changing what they are doing and how they are doing it. Others will want to know that you have not assumed mature markets are fully served, that you have not been fooled by the lure of adjacencies. They will want to know you have evaluated the risks and chosen a combination of must wins that have the highest probability of success. They will want to know you aren’t setting things up in such a way that you will break the company.
This is about engaging everyone in doing what is worth doing. Make sure the organization is fit and running well first. Connect the dots for people between their daily activities and your strategic choices. Aim to quickly get a few wins under your belt to reduce any lingering friction and grease the wheels of change. You want everyone in your organization running plays full out during Mobilization. Want to learn more about how successful CEOs implement strategy during Mobilization? Check out /move: The CEO's Playbook for Capturing Value.
Written by Sandy Ogg
CEO.works’ founder, Sandy Ogg has spend 30+ years working and learning with CEOs around the world. His experience and the insights he’s gained through this work have informed the CEO.works methodology.