Hope is not a strategy

A founder and family entrepreneur in the so-called “New Economy” invited me to his headquarters to get advice on his growth strategy.

Since the establishment of his business, his turnover had grown steadily and solidly, but all resources had been used up for the next step.

Both financially and in terms of structures, processes and personnel qualifications, the business was struggling.

After the entrepreneur had described his situation to me, I asked him about his goals. He outlined that he would like to be able to delegate more. He also wanted to create the structural conditions that would lead to more professionalism in the execution of tasks. And finally, the market potential should be better exploited compared to the competition.

What’s the point of all this? What exactly is to change? What is the purpose of delegation? Where do professional structures lead? What exactly is the result of exploiting potential? After initial irritation due to so many questions, the client opened up and realized that his target image was an action plan in the true sense of the word. Where exactly these measures were supposed to lead had been lost over the years and in everyday business.

The distinction between goal, strategy and solution (or measure) is crucial for business success. As long as the “what for? The question still provides an answer, the core has not yet been reached. And so, the actual goal is usually no longer expressed in measures, but in values, needs, or motives (e.g. satisfaction, security, success, recognition, or the like). These values, in turn, are the motivating context in which an organization and its employees can act and ideally are intrinsically motivated. The latter succeeds when the personal goals of the individual are brought into a systemic connection with the company’s goals. The more binding the goal is formulated and the more concretely it is placed in its context, the more easily each team member can check whether his or her individual motives and needs are addressed.

It is very important in this context to distinguish between objectives from strategy and measures. We are all used to looking for solutions immediately after a problem has arisen. Take the test: ask your employee or colleague what his or her professional goals are. You will receive answers such as I would like to become a department head, I would like to work less or earn more, I would like to bring my project to a successful conclusion. However, all these answers are ready-made solutions to which we are attached, but which are actually intended to satisfy a deeper need. To lead means to ask, so dare to ask: What do you want to do this for? The answers will clearly open up new perspectives for you and the employee.

In the interests of long-term success, it helps to keep recalling and validating the objective (is it at risk? Does it need to be corrected?) and to align the strategy with the objective. The strategy is defined as the fundamental, long-term behavior (combination of measures) of the company and relevant sub-areas towards their environment in order to achieve the long-term goals (source: Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon Online, 2018). In other words, the strategy is about the path to the goal. From the strategy, the relevant binding measures can then be derived: Who does what by when, so that we stay on track and achieve the corporate goal? This does not mean that strategy and target cannot be corrected along the way. On the contrary. Leading also means being able to correct the course if the adjustment is sufficiently justified.

The clear separation of corporate objectives, strategy and measures will certainly lead you to success. At the same time, you will develop a better understanding of how the corporate values match the motives and needs of your employees. An ethically oriented management behavior is the natural consequence.

Tobias Bald


Arbachstrasse 2d
6340 Inwil / Baar