By Mike Loughrin, CEO of Transformance Advisors

This is the fifth article in our series on strategy execution.

Click here to start at the beginning.


For many organizations, there are six milestones for launching strategic initiatives.

Strategy Development Milestones

In this article, we will look at the fourth milestone.

Establish Destination

The next milestone in strategy development and identifying strategic initiatives is for your leadership team to attend a planning retreat to discuss, debate, and establish a destination or vision for the organization. For most small and medium sized organizations, this can be accomplished during the first day of a two day offsite event.

The materials used to prepare the leadership team will be leveraged for the following activities:

SWOT Analysis

Identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your organization. Use brainstorming to identify specific items. Discuss the items and agree to combine, adjust, move, or eliminate items for greater clarity. Then the team should rank the items in each category. One excellent method for doing this is called the “100 point exercise” whereby each person can vote their 100 points among the items they feel most strongly about. The sum of the votes for each item will create a ranking and allow you to sort the most important to the top. In the end, the team should reach agreement on the top 3 to 5 items for each of the four categories in the SWOT analysis.


Your organizational vision highlights what you wish to accomplish over time. Looking out 5 to 10 years, the leadership team should describe what they want the organization to be doing. A good format is to work in terms of a balanced scorecard using the following categories:

  • People: Select important items such as number of people, quality of life, community contribution, etc. For example, we want to be an organization of about 250 people, providing a balanced rewarding work life, and contributing to the communities where we operate.
  • Customers: Focus on items from the perspective of your customers. What products and services will you offer? Where will you be in terms of volume, quality, and service levels?
  • Processes: What core competencies will you have? What are the critical value streams that must be working effectively for your organization to succeed?
  • Financial: What will the numbers be? Where will you be in terms of important measures like revenue, profit, and cash to cash cycle time?


People are not looking to work for an organization that has a nice mission statement; they want to engage with an organization that is on a mission! Your mission statement defines who you are and why you exist. In the book, Deep Dive, Rich Horwath identifies five criteria for a mission statement:

  • What function is performed?
  • How is it performed?
  • For whom is it performed?
  • Why is it performed?
  • Does the tone convey the organization’s uniqueness?


In the book, Six Disciplines For Excellence, Gary Harpst describes how: “values should be based upon that which is already important to you, not what you wish was important.”

A short list of three to five values is all that you need.

A good technique is to brainstorm for potential values and use the 100-point rating system to allow the leadership team to rank the list and sort the most important to the top.

In the end, the leadership team must align on a short list of values and commit to walking the talk when tough decisions are required.

Strategic Position

Your strategic position statement describes how you want to be perceived by your stakeholders and how you intent to create or maintain that perception. Building upon the vision, mission, and values, the following questions should be debated and discussed by the leadership team:

  • What specific need do you serve?
  • How do you satisfy that need?
  • Who is your preferred customer?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What differentiates you from your competition?

Milestone 4 is complete when:

  1. A SWOT Analysis has been completed.
  2. Vision, mission statement, core values, and strategic position statement have been created or renewed and there is consensus from the leadership team. For many, these items will not be 100%; the leadership team may want to mull some things over and collect feedback from individuals that where not at the planning retreat.

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