Is Your Leadership Direction All Mission and No Strategy? 3 Reasons You Need to Make a Statement

Many of the organizations I’ve worked with over the years can tell me what their mission is, but they’d be hard-pressed to articulate their strategy in a simple statement. They’re not alone. Nearly 85 percent of executives spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy and 50 percent spend no time at all. As for frontline employees, 95 percent don’t understand their company’s strategy.

While nonprofits aren’t represented in these statistics, my experience tells me that they share this challenge—particularly because so much emphasis is placed on mission statements. Though the mission is the foundation, nonprofit leaders and boards must take the next step to translate the mission into strategy.

Before you push away from the desk because you can already see a binder gathering dust on your bookshelf, let me clarify. I’m not talking about a five- or ten-year plan; I’m recommending that you and your executive team talk about a statement that guides your board’s and staff’s focus, creativity, and growth. 

My guess is that there are a lot of wonderfully written strategic plans but not many concise statements. A strategy statement has these basic elements, according to David Collis and Michael Rukstad: (1) objective, (2) scope, and (3) advantage. 

Here are three reasons I encourage you to consider a strategic statement as a necessary companion to your mission-based culture: 

Liberate innovation

If every thought or nascent approach has to be channeled to the top, a company loses momentum and demoralizes employees. Without a strategic statement, leaders stunt their middle managers’ ability to play their influential roles effectively. Take the guesswork out of your objectives and enable your midlevel leaders to focus on confidently collaborating with employees.

Focus your growth

Rather than risk misinterpretation of the most advantageous markets, empower your people to identify opportunities in the moment and work smarter. A prescribed scope of work gives your team the ability to specialize and invest in relevant skills, knowing that their return on investment is personal growth and new business for the company. Scope also arms employees with a rationale for passing on opportunities that don’t fully speak to the company strengths.

Boost critical thinking

If employees can internalize your succinct strategy, you’ve made it easier to explore options and problem-solve on the job. Plus, a strategy that clearly leans into an organization’s differentiation cultivates curiosity about leveraging those advantages. If your employees are clear on the big-picture strategy, they’re able to break down how they can contribute from their roles and responsibilities.

Much emphasis has naturally been placed on our workplace cultures due to the record number of employees who are quitting. While a connection culture stems the attrition tide, leaders can quell their anxieties about direction and performance by crafting and focusing on a strategy statement. 

An embedded strategy statement not only presents a strategic through line within the hierarchy, but it also helps leaders spend resources more wisely and liberates critical thinking at a time when we need it most. If you’d like to have a deeper conversation about blending culture with strategy, I’d be happy to talk with you.


AUTHOR - James Mueller

Jim Mueller is president of James Mueller & Associates LLC (JMA), a national consulting firm that provides services in the areas of organizational development, governance, and philanthropy. Follow Jim on LinkedIn.