Last week I worked with a group on their organizational strategy. Before the meeting began, i put a piece of a puzzle on the tables where each person would sit. There were probably fifty people in the room. To begin the meeting, I said, “OK, you each have a puzzle piece in front of you. On the count of three, I’m going to give you five minutes to put the puzzle together.” I hadn’t shown them anything–no picture of the puzzle, nothing.
I counted down; “OK go,” I said.
Most everyone just stared at me with a bizarre gaze. A few people laughed, and a few of the most dutiful in the room actually got up to begin putting the puzzle together. I stopped them all and asked, “what’s wrong?” Of course, they immediately got it. I went on to explain that many many many many organizations execute strategy in a similar fashion. They give everyone a piece of the puzzle and expect it to “all fit together” without much of a big picture. Strategy is the big picture. Strategy is the picture that enables each person, each leader, each team, each department, each business unit, to understand how it fits and where to add its piece.
Without an overall strategy, people wander around with their piece and wonder what’s next.