The Pro's and Con's of Prioritizing Strategic Goals

Strategy is all about guiding the choices of the organization - and so prioritization seems to be a key component of the conversation, yet there have been a number of heated debates about the value of prioritizing Strategic Goals.

"Strategy is more about what you stop doing, than what you start doing"

Michael Porter

Strategy is all about guiding the choices of the organization - and so prioritization seems to be a key component of the conversation, yet there have been a number of heated debates about the value of prioritizing Strategic Goals. Out or boredom, I thought I'd add some gas to this fire by listing (without judgement) the pro's and con's of prioritizing Strategic Goals (or Strategic Objectives...for that matter Objectives, OKRs, etc. .....what ever you choose to call them).

At the end of the article I will ask you to add in any more pro's and con's that you have heard.  Once we have created a complete list, we will then debate the validity of each argument.  Won't that be fun?

I have created lists below by looking at the previous LinkedIn debates and drawn from my own strategy-execution client experience.

For the purposes of this discussion, "prioritization" means any method to say 'this is more important than that' - It could be through weighting (Objective ABC=15%, Objective DEF=5%...etc.) or H/M/L (Objective ABC is High, Objective DEF is Low...etc.) or any other approach...

(These are listed in no order - but numbers to make it easier for us to refer to ones in either list)

Why we need to prioritize Strategic Goals (Pro's)

  1. Ensures alignment in strategy execution across (and down) the organization.
  2. Clear communication of strategic direction to investors.
  3. The process of prioritizing forms an agreement across the executive committee.
  4. Agreement with / Guidance to Board of Directors concerning organization direction.
  5. Ensure balance between short-term (profit-centric) and longer-term (strategic) priorities.
  6. Is a framework to ensure consistent / aligned strategy cascade.
  7. Enables optimal allocation of resources (funds, people) to strategic issues.
  8. Allows us to attract / keep people aligned to our priorities.
  9. Ensures we work with suppliers that match our priorities.
  10. Allows us to effectively communicate changes to strategic direction.

Why we should not prioritize Strategic Goals (Con's)

  1. Leadership does not want to commit (in advance) to what is important - would prefer to wait until after the period is over.
  2. Everything is important - nothing is more (or less) important than anything else.
  3. Afraid that people would not understand prioritization - and possibly not do the "Low's" and the "Mediums".
  4. Want the ability to add additional objectives and not have to adjust what has already been assigned.
  5. Unable to get leadership to agree on priorities.
  6. To much complexity across the Objectives - unable to compare them.
  7. "Dr's Kaplan and Norton did not mention prioritization in their books or in their certification process."

So that's it:  That's the list I was able to find.What did I miss?  

Add any Pro's or Con's you can think of in your comments below.  In a week I'll harvest your comments and create a "complete" list, and then we can work on processing the lists!

Brett Knowles

Brett Knowles is a thought leader in the Strategy Execution space for high-tech organizations. His client work has been published in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, and many other business publications.

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