Strategy is a contact sport . . .

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.  ~Winston Churchill

One of the better business books I’ve read in a long time (forget the parables and fables so popular today) is Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.  Rumelt (a professor at the UCLA Andersen School of Management) pulls no punches in attacking most strategies as fluff or consultant gobbledygook (love that word) and presents a real world look at strategy.

This is how he defines strategy:

“a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments and actions that respond to a high-stakes challenge”

As you can see, Rumelt goes far beyond the fat three-ring binders of charts and studies to include how to get from A to B.  And he includes the role of leadership as critical in the overall strategy process.

As I have always said:

‘There is no strategy without execution, and there is no execution without leadership!”

And that’s when the fun begins!  Strategy is a contact sport.  To get the best out of a management team, instead of having each function (read “silo”) come up with their individual goals and objectives in response to the company’s strategic intent (like doubling in 5 years, acquire 1 million subscribers, establish a global footprint, etc.), the senior team must get together and thrash out a shared plan with interlocking objectives and shared goals.  An “actionable” strategy.

In other words, they need to debate, argue, put forward alternative approaches, move around company assets, hold each other accountable, set shared objectives and focus more on the moving the company forward than obsessing over functional objectives.  And it gets hot in these meetings, as it should.  It gets loud and sweaty and sometimes frustrating.  Nobody gets all they want, yet everyone wins.  It’s a form of rugby in pinstripes.  And it delivers a highly workable set of interlocking action plans and shared objectives, with clear team ground rules, focus and commitment. The senior team get aligned and the strategy gets traction.

Wanna play the “real strategy game”?

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in consulting, leadership, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s