Culture: Mission – Strategic Direction and Intent

by Ron Potter

Strategic Direction and Intent is the last element of the Mission quadrant of great cultures.

The Strategy is different than the Vision.

  • Strategy is a plan
  • Tactics are how the plan will be executed
  • Vision is the end-result

We talked about the Vision and the Goals and Objectives (Tactics) in the last two blog posts.  This section is focused on the strategy to accomplish the goals to reach the vision.

A culture survey doesn’t focus on what the strategy is.  The strategy is different for every company, every division in the company and every team depending on the skills available.

What makes up a good strategy?

Therefore, a strategy in a corporate culture must focus on

  • Purpose
  • Meaning
  • Impact
  • Game-Changing
  • Clarity

Impact and Game-Changing

One question on the Denison Culture Survey seems to hit many of these points directly.

Our strategy leads other organizations to change the way they compete in the industry.”

Now that gets at the heart of a great strategy.  Is it forcing other people in the industry to change their approach?

Strategy should never be about making money.  As we stated earlier, money is a result.

Strategy isn’t about being the best at something.  This goals usually leads to better, cheaper, or faster.  There’s an old joke about a sign hanging in a shop window proclaiming “Better, Cheaper, Faster.”  But the second line on the sign went straight to the heart of the matter.  “Chose any two!”  Someone will always be better, cheaper, or faster.  Being the best at any one or two is not a strategy.  It’s merely your value proposition.

But a strategy that gets the competition thinking about how they’re going to compete has a real impact.  It’s a game-changer.  It shakes up the industry because no one ever thought about doing it that way.

The list of game-changing innovations in my lifetime is incredible.  There are two that I closely relate with because they corresponded to significant moments in my life.

  1. The Transistor.  It was invented the year I was born.
  2. The programable Microprocessor.  It was invented when I graduated from college.

Those two in particular lead to other game-changing innovations such as Mobile phones (massive computers that happen to make phone calls), DNA, LED, GPS, Digital Photos, FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) almost everything in our daily lives.

I get it that you may be thinking at the moment, “What do the FAANG companies have to do with us?”  We make glass jars.  We make cereal.  We make rubber tires.

But there is a constant revolution going on in each of these industries as well as others.  Every industry and company is vulnerable to innovation and change.  Is your strategy leading you to be the disrupter or the disrupted?

Purpose and Meaning

In the first year of my consulting career, I was in real trouble.  I was coming to the end of my initial resources with no clients or even clear prospects.  When my wife asked if I was supposed to be doing something else, my answer was “No.  I believed I’d been called to this work.”

For me, helping leaders build great Teams, Leadership, and Culture was very meaningful and had a purpose.  That doesn’t mean I was immune to failure, but that strong sense of being called to this work helped me persevere through the difficult times.

Does your strategy have that kind of purpose and meaning?  Does it drive people to work through those difficult times when it might be easier to give up?  Are people excited about getting to work, so see if they can accomplish the strategy and see how that might change the world?  Does your strategy have meaning and purpose?


Just like the other two elements of Mission, Strategic Direction and Intent must be clear, crisp, and concise.  With large organizations, each division must be clear about how they may need to sub-optimize their portion at the moment to achieve the overall mission of the company.  Is there enough clarity of the overall goal that people understand why they can’t have the resources they need at the moment to reach the ultimate corporate vision?

Hitting on All Cylinders

  • Impactful and Game-Changing
  • Purpose and Meaning
  • Clarity

Powerful strategies have all three.

  • Two out of three?  You might tread water.
  • One of the three?  You’ll lose ground.
  • Three out of three?  This is going to be fun!

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