“So Michael, what is your competitive advantage when it comes to strategic planning? Why should an organization hire your team to help them with strategy? What makes you better?”

As I pondered the question from the Chair of my Vistage group, I knew he was baiting me. See, along with leading me and 14 other CEOs in our monthly meetings as we counsel, challenge and otherwise provoke each other to high achievement, the Chair was also a strategic planning consultant himself. He had known me for many years and was well aware of my company’s approach to strategy. I knew he had an answer but wanted to know what I thought. The bait was on the hook. So I bit.

I responded confidently, “I believe we do an amazing job of helping organizations isolate their critical issues and develop a clearly delineated strategy that moves them past their barriers to a new level of performance.”

I thought I stated the case pretty well. Unfortunately, I was alone in my thinking. “That’s not it,” he challenged. So I bit harder.

“Not only that, but also our core competency around facilitation is a key competitive advantage. We use approaches that engage, excite, and build the buy-in needed to move a plan from paper to implementation. We also recommend monitoring, accountability and reward processes to help make the plan a living document.”

I felt even more confident about that answer, until he said, “Very nice. But no, you’re missing it.

“Well, we also bring great clarity around the components of a plan. We explain in no uncertain terms the difference between vision and mission, goals and objectives, critical success factors and strategies, and so on. With our rigorous approach to planning, teams typically spend zero time debating terminology or process and get fully focused on creating their vision of success and defining their road map for getting there.”

As true as my statement was, even I knew this was helpful but far from competitive advantage territory.

You really don’t get it do you? Your competitive advantage is that.” As he spoke, he pointed to the table. Now I happen to think that my Vistage Chair is brilliant. However, I trusted my instincts enough to be certain that “the table” was not a better answer than any of the ones I had given.

Seeing my bewildered look, he picked up a document from the table and explained, “This is your competitive advantage. This.

The Drivers Model: Your Competitive Advantage

He was holding the result that comes from our planning process – an 11×17 page, folded in half.

  • The front page of the document typically contains the organization’s vision, mission, guiding principles, and positioning statement.
  • The two inside pages show each of the broad aims (the goals), and, for each goal, the measurable targets that define success for the time period (objectives), the key conditions that have to be created (critical success factors), the hindrances to success (barriers), and the key activities (strategies) that will be undertaken to overcome the barriers and create the key conditions needed to achieve the targets.
  • The back page shows the priorities and ownership of the priorities for monitoring purposes.

“When the executives in an organization can have their strategic plan in a form that they can look at every day, where their key targets and the top priorities that will drive their success are that visible and focused, you have something that people will knock down your door to get. You call it the Drivers Model. I call it your competitive advantage.”

I caught myself nodding agreement without knowing it. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Again. You would think by now I would be used to it.

What to learn more? Take a look at the Drivers Model and the Leadership Strategies strategic planning approach. Or, take a look at our three strategic planning packages to gain assistance with your strategic plan.