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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    City Slickers Meets the World of Strategic Planning – Part 1, the JUST ONE THING Challenge

    After a presentation I recently made at a strategic planning conference a sr vp from a high tech manufacturing firm came to me and shared a story about change at his organization.  It was a sad story.  He lamented to me that his senior management team had been very astute in the early detection of the last two direction shifts in their market niche, which was a great accomplishment.  And they put these new directions into their formal strategic plan.  

    But he said because the company’s new strategy couldn’t be translated quickly enough to the desk top and shop floor levels, they missed out in the marketplace.  Big time.  He’s in a very competitive industry where his top two competitors beat them in both cases, causing his company to play a very expensive game of catch-up as they scrambled to capture what used to be their market share, and then try capture even more.


    He said he’d talked with numerous consultants who were all too happy to give him 50 things to do to avoid this scenario from repeating itself in the future – and, he added, with a pretty hefty price tag.  So he wanted to ask me at this conference, what is the ONE thing that I thought could provide the highest leverage translating strategy to execution.  When I started to answer he anticipated my response and cut me off, saying, “ Yeah, yeah, I know you’re going to say there’s more than just on thing to do, but I’m asking you to dig back into all your experiences… with successes and with failures… and give me what you think is the highest leverage approach that will apply in most cases.”


    I had to admit it was a great question that made me think.  After clearing my mind of the image in the movie City Slickers where ornery trail boss Jack Palance (Curly) challenges Billy Crystal to come up with the ONE THING that’s most important to him, I knocked the trail dust off my PowerPoint clicker and said to the vp, “Okay, here it is.  Once we get past the obvious fundamentals like having a tight strategy-to-structure connection, over-communicating the strategy, tying it into the company’s formal performance appraisal process, etc. here’s that One Thing for phenomenal leverage.  And I’ve found this has great portability from industry to industry, and from organization to organization…



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