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Posted: February 07, 2011

The next two leadership fundamentals

Let's talk solid strategic planning

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's note: Here is another valuable excerpt from the new success book by national business consultant Laurence B. Valant and partner Gayle W. Hustad, "Lead and Manage! The definitive guide for getting the results you want."

Leadership Fundamental #2 - Outlining the overarching strategy for achieving the vision

Valuable examples of solid strategic planning are found throughout history, and perhaps no better one can be identified than in the darkest hours of World War II. From the earliest days of the conflict, the allied forces - America, America, Great Britain and the Soviet Union - were united in their vision: take back the continent of Europe from Hitler.

The overarching strategy for implementing the vision took much longer to achieve. From as early as 1942, the Americans strongly favored a cross channel invasion entering Europe on the coast of France. Churchill campaigned for an invasion through Italy. Hating to abandon Great Britain's investment in the Mediterranean, Churchill felt that shifting men and landing craft back to the United Kingdom for an invasion whose success they doubted as unwise (they had been there, done that before, at Dunkirk).

The Soviets were angered that an invasion had been delayed from 1943 to 1944, and were suspicious of the motives and plans of their allies. The person responsible for the detailed planning for Overlord, the code name for the invasion, was Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan. "Freddie" Morgan was not responsible for the overarching strategy of D-Day, but as early as 1941, he had been given the responsibility for planning a what if event. The allies' overarching strategy, firmly fixed by January 1944, was a multi-force invasion on the coast of France. Unknown to most, Freddie Morgan, from the overarching strategy given to him by Churchill and Roosevelt, developed the strategic plan for D-Day.

Guidelines for determining an overarching strategy:

• Broadly outline the major strategic thrust that will be required to realize the vision.
• Define in general terms the approach to the market and the timing of that approach.
• Include the economic estimates of the impact of executing the strategy successfully and the resulting affect on the firm's value estimated in terms of incremental RI.

Remember from Overlord that the overarching strategy provides the foundation upon which the strategic plan will be developed. Once the overarching strategy is defined, the next important step is to determine how the organization must look if the overarching strategy is to be implemented successfully. For the overarching strategy to succeed, it is crucial that the right people be chosen to lead and to manage.

Leadership Fundamental #3 - Defining the organization strategy

There are four steps in developing an organization strategy: 1) determining the general structure of the organization; 2) defining the key functions and responsibilities assigned to each position 3) Identifying the key players to fill the critical positions (in some cases) and 4) outlining the general timetable required in implementing the strategic organization.

After the vision and overarching strategy for retaking Europe had been determined by the Allies, the questions regarding the structure of the organization required for accomplishing this massive strategy were not immediately answered. The Soviet Union's suspicions about the plans and motives of the Allies were only compounded by the fact that no one had been appointed to implement the plan upon which they had agreed. Determining that structure - what that organization would look like and who would ultimately lead the invasion of Europe - rested solely on America and Great Britain.

Roosevelt determined in his negotiations with Churchill that the Allied armies must be led by someone who shared his unyielding commitment to securing the unconditional surrender of Germany. (Churchill did agree that if the German people were to overthrow Hitler, there may be an environment created conducive to a negotiated peace). FDR insisted that the organization structure be built around one supreme commander who would have ultimate authority over all the Allied forces.

 Eventually, Churchill agreed that the supreme command would rest with an American; but he secured an agreement from FDR that the deputy and ground commanders would be British. After many months, the organization structure for implementing Overlord was in place.

Guidelines for creating an organization strategy:
• Define the general structure of the firm, the profit centers, and the key functions to be performed.
• Identify the functional responsibilities for each of the key positions
• Where possible, identify specifically the people who will fill the key positions of the organization.
• Define quantitatively the macro expectations which must be met through the commitment of, and execution by, the key leaders
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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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