Managing Strategic Momentum: Plan the work and work the plan

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
3 min read

To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The only legitimate work in an organization is work that contributes to the accomplishment of the strategic plan. It takes the orchestration of management and leadership to direct an enterprise toward the desired future.

“Leaders are obligated to provide and maintain momentum”

Max DePree

Making Strategy Work

In many cases there is a disconnect between Strategy and Tactics. Strategy is often misconstrued as simply an annual exercise, an event that creates a ‘product’: the strategic plan document. Strategy should be thought of a process to be used to actually run the business better.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.


Strategy integrates with tactics and creates a continuous feedback loop. You have your goals and vision, you experiment with ways to implement, and you course correct as you go. Buck up, suck up, and come back when you mess up. That loop needs to be managed to create and sustain forward momentum toward goals.

If the strategy is not actively managed, it will not happen. It will fail. Epically.

The objective is to achieve the organization’s goals. It is crucial to keep our Eyes on the Prize. We do that by managing the strategy to achieve the strategic goals of the organization. And we manage the strategy by measuring the effectiveness of what we are doing.

A major objective of management is to maintain strategic momentum. This entails overcoming inertia and doing the actual work to accomplish specific objectives. It is based on aligning decision-making processes and their consequences.

Effective management is a learning process that relies on strategic thinking, periodic strategic planning and evaluating strategy performance.

A key to managing strategy is the ability to detect emerging patterns and help them take shape.

Rational strategies rarely work out as originally planned. Adapting to the environment and course correcting is a function of recognizing and codifying the strategic imperatives that emerge out of confronting the world.

An organization may end up with a strategy that was quite unexpected as a result of having been swept away by events and circumstance. This is the dynamic of emergent strategy. It entails being opportunistic. The Latin phrase is Carpe Diem: Seize the Day.

The Learning Organization

As an organization moves into an uncertain future there is a sense of feeling our way along and learning. It is a process of Reformulating and Groping. It is not a direct path from here to there. It is zig-zag and sometimes retrograde.

Strategy evolves and emerges during implementation as the organization gains new information and feeds that information back to the formulation process. We modify the strategic initiatives en route.

The external environment is in constant flux and strategists are unable to accurately predict future and even current conditions. The organization will find itself unable to respond appropriately to powerful external forces with the existing strategy. Strategy needs to be flexible and modifiable as it encounters a world that didn’t get the memo about how to cooperate with your plan.

Other competitors are operating in the market and implementing their own strategies. Their actions may block a planned strategic initiative of yours. This unanticipated competitive move can force the activation of a contingency plan or a period of groping.

Acknowledge these inevitabilities and prepare to react and be flexible.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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