Be a Strategic Planning Action Hero with Micro-Strategies

by Jennifer Beever

Dave Logan, Co-Founder/Senior Partner of Culture Sync, Professor at the Marshall School of Business at USC, and C0-Author of the book Tribal Leadership, presented the opening keynote at the Association for Strategic Planning annual conference in Pasadena, California. In a little over an hour, Dave gave the audience of strategic planners a new model for jump-starting strategic plan implementation with his keynote speech. Here’s a summary of the talk:

Dave started by discussing an important disconnect in strategic planning. While the broadband industry has a “last mile problem” (the last mile of cable or wiring is the most expensive), strategic planning has a “first mile problem.” Businesses that have a strategic plan often don’t know how to move the plan into action. The inability to act on the strategic plan is compounded by the fact that most strategic plans have many initiatives, and executives have to decide which initiatives to implement first.


One solution is the micro-strategy. Micro-strategies create a burst of implementation in a 100-day term that allows strategic planners to show results quickly. The process includes five steps.

  1. Identify an outcome that the business wants.
  2. Identify the assets that the business has to support achieving the outcome. Dave pointed out that a critical aspect of this step is focusing on what a business has, not what they don’t have. He commented that if you are working with a group that is completely demoralized, start by making a list of the assets the business has – not what they don’t have – a great tip for these economic times.
  3. Ask the test question, “Do we have the right assets?” If you don’t have the right assets, create a new outcome to achieve them, which is a nested strategy. An example is a business that doesn’t have a platform from which to communicate its marketing message for a product launch. A new outcome might be to “Get X number of followers on Twitter.”
  4. List actions that can be done to achieve the outcome.
  5. Ask the test question, “Will the actions achieve the outcome?”

A Micro-Strategy Example

The example Dave showed was that of a health organization that needed to improve compliance with health standards to reduce patient infections. A micro-strategy outcome they identified was to increase hand washing compliance from 42% to 85%. Some of the assets that were identified included knowledge of the financial impact of the problem, knowledge of the compliance percentage, knowledge of the role that families and culture play in hand-washing. Some of the actions they identified were to increase communications about the need for compliance and to engage families of patients to create compliance.

Dave pointed out that often one asset will emerge as a key factor in achieving the outcome. In his example, the key was engaging families and culture to increase hand-washing compliance. Once families of patients understood the importance of hand-washing by medical personnel, they would ask the doctors and nurses if they washed their hands before treating the patient, their family member. He equated the key asset to a usual object that action heroes often have and use to achieve extraordinary results  – Indiana Jones’ whip is one example. What was the actual outcome in the example? 93% compliance!

Dave had the audience break into small groups to create and discuss our individual micro-strategies, giving everyone a chance to experience the model first-hand. After we identified what we outcome wanted, Dave suggested that we triple it(!) He also pointed out that identifying core values that drive planning is a booster of the micro-strategy process, allowing businesses to increase success by as much as 300%. Because the health organization valued quality service, 42% hand-washing compliance was unacceptable and increased the organization’s motivation to achieve the outcome.

This is one of the many take-aways from ASP’s annual conference on strategic planning. I hoped to live-blog at the conference, but the facility wasn’t set up for it. I’ll be sharing more in the next week. If you find this information helpful, please comment about it below.


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kyle April 20, 2014 at 4:27 am

The cbs moneywatch version of Dave’s blog on this won’t connect so found this for nice summary. Thanks.

Jennifer Beever April 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Thanks, Kyle, the link to Dave’s book seems to be working, and I see that he was contributing to a CBS Moneywatch blog but can’t find one on Micro-Strategies either.

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