Q&A: Staying focused when developing strategy

October 2, 2007

Editor’s note: Over the past year, Ronald Schilling’s commentaries in DI SCAN have addressed issues regarding business strategies in medical imaging. We are publishing some of those questions and responses and invite new requests for information.

Editor's note: Over the past year, Ronald Schilling's commentaries in DI SCAN have addressed issues regarding business strategies in medical imaging. We are publishing some of those questions and responses and invite new requests for information.

Question: In the last Q&A published (DI SCAN 9/4/07, Tug-of-war vs. moving forward), you suggested the sheet-of-music strategic thinking tool (DI SCAN 4/13/07, Forming a strategy) as the right one to use for keeping team members coordinated in solving a task. Would this tool also apply when developing the strategy?

Answer: For strategy implementation, the sheet-of-music strategic thinking tool is very useful. But for bringing the team together in developing the strategy, the vision statement tool ( DI SCAN 5/08/06, How vision determines success) would be more appropriate.

In developing a strategy, it is critical to have each member of the team participate in its formation so they all have an ownership stake. The vision statement provides this opportunity.

Recall that the vision statement is made up of a purpose (where we want to go) and a mission (key strategies required to achieve the purpose). The process, which insures team participation, is carried out using the following steps:

Step 1. Establish the purpose. The team members start by suggesting words that define the purpose and writing them on a board for group comment.

Step 2. Identify key words that can be removed, are redundant, or can be combined. This way, the team can reach consensus on the most important words to be included in the purpose.

Step 3. Create a sentence from the word list. A team member suggests an appropriate sentence for the purpose. This is refined until the team senses that they have a meaningful purpose, one that represents the combined wisdom of the group. (It's amazing how rapidly this process can take place.)

You might think this is obvious, and that's because it is! By following this process, all team members buy into the process. We take what we've gained to this point and apply it in a similar process that leads us to the mission.

Step 4. Establish the mission. This is carried out by providing a number of sentences representing strategies to achieve the purpose. Don't be concerned by the number of possibilities that a creative team can suggest. The key again is to allow all members to express their points of view.

Step 5. Identify key words. This selection is similar to step 2.

Step 6. Determine necessary and sufficient conditions. As the number of strategies are reduced through combinations and deletions, the team searches for a feeling of comfort that they have the right set of strategies to achieve the purpose. When that feeling is mutual, the set becomes the mission.

Typically, I prefer approximately five key strategies in the mission. As you may recall from previous commentaries, this is the right number because it falls between seven (too many) and three (too few). It's amazing how accepted this is. If you look at the annual reports of well-run companies, they usually use five key strategies.

Having established the vision = purpose + mission, we can now set the team in motion to make it happen. The sheet of music is the right tool to use. For each mission strategy, a game plan needs to be established that consists of what needs to be done, when it must be done, and who will be responsible for getting it done (with the participation of other team members, of course).

The sheet of music represents the elements of a project, listed by department or individual, and the key activities required within a given time period, usually six months. In this way, every member of the team can know exactly what everyone is working on in the given period and can be sure that it all fits together to achieve the goals at hand.

In summary, the vision statement helps us construct the strategy and the sheet of music then assists in making it happen.

Ronald Schilling is an editorial advisor to Diagnostic Imaging and president of RBS Consulting in Los Altos Hills, CA. Comments or questions should be addressed to ronald11341@aol.com.