Friday, July 30, 2010



It is one of those things that keep coming back again and again – Is strategy a decision, destiny or both? While analytics has positioned strategy as a set of decisions – there is also merit in the argument that without a proper destiny, those strategic decisions have no relevance. The question, however, is which one comes first – Decision or Destiny? An insightful analogy- I have come to grips in recent years is that strategy is a “beautiful pottery”– with destiny as the clay and decision as the water - and together they are molded in to a fine piece of pottery called strategy. Before we put the piece of clay (destiny) to start the actual molding process, we need to add enough water (decision) into it- in order to make it pliable and soft enough - for it to be able to actually use it. Without enough water into the clay, the clay will remain too rigid to be able to actually mold it – similarly, without enough decision focus, destiny has no relevance, and without destiny mindset, decision has no meaning. And so, “doing both” is the way to go when it comes to strategic planning in the words of Inder Sidhu and Roger Martin.


Now, back to our analogy - after we add enough water (decision) into the clay (destiny) to make it soft and pliable – the next thing we need to do is put them in the center of a electric wheel called analytics (i.e. balanced quantitative and qualitative analytics) before we start the molding process called strategic planning. To get to that “doing both” mindset within that molding process – like most things in this world – strategic planning must also adhere to certain guiding principles for it to align properly within the center of the electric spinning wheel.


  • Principle of Team – Addressing “who we are” question in terms of forming the right team – get the right people first on the bus - and then (together as a team) formulate the strategy - in the words of Jim Collins.
  • Principle of Purpose – Addressing the "why do we exist" question in terms of the purpose dimension.
  • Principle of Place – Addressing “where to play” question in terms of market geography.
  • Principle of Difference – Addressing “what to play” question in terms of differentiation and exploitation.
  • Principle of Value – Addressing “how do we win” question in terms of top line focused innovation excellence ideas.


  • Principles of Talent – Addressing “who we are” question in terms of forming the team with a good mix of skill, talent and gifting.
  • Principle of Profit – Addressing the "why do we exist" question in terms of the profit dimension.
  • Principle of Focus – Addressing “where to play” question in terms of product and services categories.
  • Principle of Conformity – Addressing “What to play” question in terms of prevention and mitigation.
  • Principle of Rewards - Addressing “How do we win” question in terms of bottom line focused operational excellence ideas.

As we can recognize from this set of destiny-decision balanced principles, it is clearly evident that balancing them is a key- and so it is all the more important for organizations to use the proper electric wheel (analytics) to solve the right strategic planning issues with a "doing both" mindset. In addition, augmenting these principles with the right set of accountability/governance processes and principles will indeed make our organizations a best in class in our industry vertical.


  1. Hello Charles,
    I like metaphors that open new windows for thinking. The clay-water mixture is one of these good metaphors. Formation of final product depends on both the quality of clay and its readiness for shaping and re-shaping as well as the quality of water used. As we have salty water we have salty decisions; sweet water gives sweet decisions only if used with the proper clay. Likewise; destiny is shaping our future and the quality of our goals, values and teams rely on the quality of the clay as well as the quality of water used.
    Strangely enough, my last presentation on SlideShare entitled “Human behavior vs. clay behavior” adds another perspective to your approach. The link is

  2. Hello Ali Annani,You bring up a great point regarding the quality dimension of clay and its role in producing the final product - in this case it happens to be strategy. Also, as you have correctly pointed in your presentation in slide share - scriptures of both east and west alike - have tremendous insights buried deep inside them - and so we have a great opportunity to bring them out to the business world and vice-versa.
    As always, appreciate your inspirational comments.


  3. Thanks, Charles. I would appreciate it if you would record your opinion on slideshare.
    A very small correction: my name is Anani and not Annani.

  4. Will do. Sorry about the typo.


  5. Hello Charles Prabakar,

    I loved your comment on slide share. It inspired me to look a change from a new perspective. You may find the details on the same link above.

    I do appreciate your inspirational comment

  6. Dear readers, Charles Prabakar has referred to this post in his magnificent comment on one of my presentations entitled "Business Ideas Inspired by Eggs". I strongly recommend to you reading his comment not because of what Charles described my presentation, but more importantly to the depth of his comment. If you are interested here is the link