Book Review: A Dream with a Deadline: Turning Strategy into Action

29 Jan 2014

A Dream with a StrategyAuthor: Jacques Horovitz with Anne-Valerie Ohlsson-Corboz
ISBN: 978-0-273-70868-1
Book review by Jean Fagan.

Too often, strategic plans don’t deliver the results they say they will because they fail to achieve commitment at the real points of execution – the larger employee base. They are frequently regarded as tedious planning processes, that take too long, are over complicated with jargon and more likely to create compliance than commitment.

Horovitz tells us to forget strategic planning. He says that what every organisation needs is an inspirational vision of the future – a dream. But it must be realistic, time bound, have a clear focus, and, a beginning and an end – in other words, a dream with a deadline. He provides a one page framework for a brilliant, yet uncomplicated approach to formulating and executing the the building blocks to achieve the vision, with a supporting platform of behaviours to achieve success.

Based on the author’s very considerable experience in large scale organisations, his own business and research he personally conducted in formulating the model – providing the direction that a dream offers and encouraging innovation is, he says, resoundingly the best way to create future. JF Kennedy’s famous speech of putting a man on the moon is a masterful example of a leader sharing a dream. What all great visions have in common is the ability to unite diverse groups in a common cause. It is a powerful leadership tool that sets direction, generates excitement and commitment.  All are essential elements for successful execution to meet a need – that need is the mission. This is about leadership setting direction rather than management which Horovitz describes as “optimising what you have”.

One of the many strengths of the model is its emphasis on collaborative effort. If necessary, organisations may need to develop both corporate and business unit level visions, making sure that they are consistent and synchronised, building on one another and supporting the overall vision of the organisation. Horovitz also understands all too well the blockages and potential derailers for which he provides solutions and different approaches. “People respect what you inspect” – both progress and success are measured and rewarded.

The group participating in the visioning should include the CEO, executive team and Board members. And there is a process for cascading sharing of the vision across the organisation. Inherent in the design is the flexibility to be responsive to unplanned events which are all too common in our fast paced business environment.

If you dread those strategic planning sessions, then this model will excite you with its exquisite simplicity and obvious depth of nailing what’s really strategic, whilst capturing the enthusiasm and commitment of a shared sense of purpose.