Does your strategy tell us where you’re going?

When looking at statements of strategy, I like those that suggest a bit of a story, give a sense of direction.

This doesn’t have to mean a lot of words. It can just mean a sentence that gives us a sense of the from, and the to. The current state, and the desired state. We can do that in just a word or two.

How far do you want to go?

For example, if you say your strategy is to transform your operations to meet your customers’ needs across all platforms, the word “transform” gives me the sense that this is a huge change for you. It’s not a small tweak. It’s not housekeeping dressed up as a strategic statement.

It’s an ambitious way to frame it. This is going to absorb a lot of resources – maybe financial, maybe other (mindshare, people’s time). Usually, at the beginning of a transformation, we don’t know precisely where we’re going to end up, so there’s a sense of a journey, an adventure.

And in this statement, I have a sense of your motivation, as well – it’s about customers’ needs, not about cost savings or reducing risk. You’re going to make choices based on that phrase.

When I explain it that way, it’s practically a Pixar movie, right?

It’s not new that stories are compelling. What seems to be emerging from recent studies, though, is the degree to which the stories help us connect to ideas, and to people.

This makes the question of crafting really engaging stories all the more critical in any communication.

But in strategy I think it’s particularly important, and so often overlooked.

If we’re clear, we’re committed

One reason it’s overlooked is that we sometimes hide behind confusion – if we’re clear, then we are committed. That can be scary.

But that’s also precisely why it’s so important to take a bit of a storytelling approach to strategy.

It commits us to a choice, which is what strategy is all about. If you tell me you’re transforming your operations, great! But my question in 6 months will be, why is your website still so out of date? How come nobody returns my calls? Are you ever going to update your services?

And, if I’m an owner or a board member, I’m going to expect to see an investment now in the transformation, with a payoff of lower costs or greater benefits (or both) down the road.

Language that engages…

People remember stories.There are many people involved in helping us execute our strategies – employees, partners, vendors, contractors, maybe even volunteers. Inert language is not memorable. But language that engages us in a sense of narrative can bring us along for the ride, and help us see how we can contribute to the momentum. It can motivate, and it can inspire.

Can you take your strategies and turn them into little one-sentence stories? If not, maybe they aren’t really strategies you’ve committed to. What are you really trying to accomplish?

If we can help you develop or tell your strategy story, please get in touch.

Photo from Pixabay by geralt, used via Creative Commons license.

Contact us at or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


We offer resources to help leaders of associations and other not-for-profits think about their approach to strategy and governance, from various perspectives.