The power of a one-phrase strategy in driving growth

8 03 2013

Sports psychologists talk about being in flow, in the zone. It means the athlete is focused, with no distractions, and performance becomes almost effortless. But this state of effortlessness, requires a lot of effort to achieve it, whether in high performance sport or small businesses.

Re-reading Margaret Manson‘s CEO Online article “The power of the ‘One-Rule’ in productivity and growth” has beenĀ a valuable reminder of the importance of maintaining focus if market scale is to be achieved. In effect it recommends developing an organisation-specific way of challenging whether a proposed idea or project will “make the boat go faster”.

This strategic focus is much harder to agree and execute than a simple phrase suggests. It needs to be the organisation’s “north star” that helps people trade off competing priorities by being able to hold up a new project against the number one strategic outcome. It needs to be specific enough that everything can be justified against it, but broad enough to align the whole organisation.

Vern Harnish, business growth guru and author of The Rockefeller Habits, adopts a similar approach with recommending a “one-phrase strategy“. Vern often uses the example of the “wheels up” strategy of SouthWest Airlines. This simple phrase drove every strategic and operational decision from reservation systems to cleaning processes to the types of aircraft they bought. The single focus of every decision was to keep the planes in the air where they generate profits, not on the ground waiting or being repaired.

Do you have a “one-rule” or “one-phrase strategy” within your department or organisation? And is it one that helps clearly focus strategic and operational decisions as well as “wheels up” or “THE low cost airline”? Please share in the comments below.

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