The interesting thing about this definition is that when I interview an executive team, individually, one on one, and ask "what is your strategy?" frequently their replies are all over the place.
When I ask them "what is the essence of your organization and how does it thrive?"
they frown, they think, they scratch their heads, but, eventually,
after thinking aloud, the final result of the individual interviews will
generally be a fairly consistent view of the Strategic Essence of their
Once you understand the concept of Strategic Essence, you begin to
understand that this should be the reason you invest in new
systems. It should guide and direct the procurement and
implementation of new systems and business improvement projects because
the concept of the essence embraces the very core of what makes the
This Strategic Essence originated intuitively
from the founders recognizing a market
need and filling it. It embraces differentiation and competitiveness. Organizations thrive
because they are different and yet most systems implementations, focuses
on operational "me too" stuff and gets in the way of the essence and
therefore the competitiveness of the organization.
Some years ago I undertook a short diagnostic investigation,
something that I call a "Pulse Measurement", into a systems implementation that
had been stalled for nearly a year. The client was in the Freight
Forwarding and Clearing business, and they were in the process of
implementing a "best of breed", "industry leader" software package -- the
I interviewed the executive team, one on one and, by the end of the
first day I had established that their market was the 10% of customers
who were very time sensitive, and that they had differentiated
themselves with very tight response times and a service promise which
amounted to "if we promise you delivery by a certain date and time and the clearance is delayed we will make good your loss". They never had to make a payment and they had a portfolio of very satisfied and very loyal customers.
There was major tension with the software company which was also
managing the implementation. The second day of the investigation I
phoned the owner of the software firm in another country and quickly
established that his Strategic Essence was to be the dominant software
provider in the field globally, which meant, of necessity, that he was
focussed on the 90% of the market where service levels and response
times were not such an issue.
There was a fundamental strategic misalignment. I met with the
executive who had briefed me and explained what I had discovered.
He took one look at me and exclaimed "of course! the lights have just gone on!" That single discovery fully explained the tensions, the frustration, the lack of commitment to service, the entire "sorry saga" of a project that had run for eighteen months and caused nothing but heartache and frustration.
That is the power of understanding the Strategic Essence of an
organization. On the strength of that one piece of information,
which delivered a massive "AHA" to the man in charge, the project was
summarily terminated the same day!
I was then engaged to assist the client to select the most
suitable software. Together with my client, we visited three software
companies. At the third presentation the chief executive of the
small niche player, unprompted, said "we are committed to service, in
fact, we are so committed to service that if you miss a deadline as a
consequence of a problem with our software we will reimburse you your
I am sure you can understand that no further evaluation of software was
necessary, at that presentation we ascertained that the software met
the basic needs of the business but much more importantly, we had found a
supplier whose strategic focus was strongly aligned with that of my
client. The software went in without difficulty.
It is not always that simple but failing to ensure alignment at the level of the Strategic Essence will alwaysgive rise to problems, and alignment with the Strategic Essence will always greatly improve the probability of a successful outcome.