Question: What happens when an organization does NOT have a clearly defined, widely articulated strategic direction?

Answer: Not what the leader wants to happen!

Most leaders of organizations have a picture of the direction their organization needs to head. Often, however, that picture is not clearly communicated to mid-level managers and workers. What is the result? Business units and departments make decisions based on their own picture of where the organization needs to go. Unfortunately, different departments can have different pictures and often will make decisions based on competing views. In severe cases, we have seen departments going in directions that are mutually exclusive: they are literally working against each other!

The Key Question

As a result of your strategic plan, would it be helpful if all departments had a clear understanding of the key priorities for the organization and the reasons for those priorities?

Here is how we help establish a clearly defined strategic direction!

We use the Drivers Model, a proven approach that helps organizations define their vision (preferred picture of the future), their mission (what you do, for whom do it, and the benefit) and their goals (broad aims). The information below is from a strategy plan for a government agency.

A world free of the devastation of diabetes.
To eliminate the preventable burden of diabetes through public health leadership, research, programs, and policies that translate science into practice.
A. ImpactEliminate preventable new cases of diabetes and morbidity, premature mortality, and disability while improving the overall quality of life for all persons with diabetes.
B. LeadershipProvide strategic, dynamic, and responsible leadership in achieving diabetes public health objectives.
C. ScienceSupport and conduct high quality applied research and surveillance for sound public health policies and actions.
D. ProgramsImplement effective, efficient, and appropriate science-based public health prevention and control approaches to reduce the burden of diabetes.
E. EnvironmentFoster a stimulating work environment and diverse work force that maximizes teamwork, employee development, initiative, performance and creativity.

While vision, mission and goals frame the picture, these components do not adequately establish the specific direction of the organization. For many organizations, we find positioning statements help establish the “flags on the hill” – the areas of primary focus.

Positioning Statements – The Flags on the Hill

A. We believe that science is progressing at a rapid rate and offering new opportunities for reducing the burden of diabetes. Therefore, we must respond to these opportunities by investing in translational research and programs in the following areas: Primary prevention Diabetes in children Cardiovascular disease Cost-effectiveness research (decision science) Gaps

B. We believe that the growing turmoil and complexity in the health care system will result in increasing disparities in economic access to care, lack of consistency and continuity in coverage, increasing tension between existing clinical models and life style approaches. Therefore, we must: Develop clinical and public health approaches to diabetes prevention Adopt new clinical models and public health partners Maintain and expand secondary and tertiary prevention Build the economic business case Engage “inter-sector” partners (e.g., education, industry, faith-based)

C. We believe that there will be a greater demand for accountability of resources. There we must invest in good information systems, clearly identify what we should be accountable for, and be able to clearly communicate the public health impact of resources used.  

Finally, these positioning statements are reflected in the measurable objectives, specific strategies, and top priorities set by the organization. The following are objectives and strategies for the Impact goal area in the previous example.

Impact ObjectivesImpact Strategies
Increase by 5% the general awareness in the population that diabetes can be controlled and that it complications can be prevented, as measured by an annual sample population survey. Increase by 10% number of purchaser/payers who reimburse for diabetes screening and treatment. Increase by 5% percent of high risk persons who engage in appropriate weight control practices or exercise, as measured by annual sample population survey. Develop and implement media messages to increase diabetes awareness among the general public and health care providers. Identify gaps in reimbursement and develop and market to purchasers/payers business case for diabetes prevention/control for purchaser/payer communities. Document effectiveness of primary preventative approaches. Develop effective lifestyle approaches with partners to prevent diabetes in persons with pre-diabetes and prevent complications in persons with diabetes.


The Drivers Model helps you define a clear direction through establishing positioning statements, measurable objectives, and specific, prioritized strategies