Is executing strategy like going on a diet?

August 10, 2011

In my previous post I acknowledged that to simplify this nebulous concept of strategy an organization should ask three simple questions:

  1. Why do you exist?;
  2. What are you going to do?; and,
  3. How are you going to do it?

Therefore, after you and your leadership team come up with some brilliant and unique answers to the first two questions that will provide you with competitive advantage, it all comes down to “how are you going to do it?”.  Seems simple in comparison to answering the first two questions, but is it?

David Maister in his book “Strategy and the Fat Smoker” ( suggests that most organizations (and individuals) know the answers to the third question (i.e. the simple part) but challenges if organizations are really ready to expend the appropriate amount of effort and make the necessary changes to achieve the goals of the intended strategy. He suggests that similar to making a New Year’s resolution that you want to lose weight – that you know what you need to do (eat better and exercise more) but the real question is, are you willing to make the necessary changes to make it happen?

Maister asserts that the challenge is that as individuals and executives we assume that if we tell people how their life could be better and / or convince them that goals are worth striving for that change should occur. “Oh, I see, it’s not good for me? Ah, well then, I’ll stop, of course!” We all know that this doesn’t work. Maister concludes that the primary reason why this doesn’t work is that is that rewards (and pleasures) are in the distant future, and the disruption, discomfort and discipline needed to get there are immediate. Just like a diet!

So, from your experiences do you think executing a strategy is like going on a diet?

Let us know your story…

– Dustin

We help organizations thrive by building strong leadership teams & driving sustainable growth.

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