Why Does Strategy Depend on Good People?

One of the most important lessons learned in working with our clients on strategy management is that it always comes down to the people in the organization to make strategy happen. This is an obvious conclusion and probably not a surprise to anyone. Yet setting your culture up for success is an important part of achieving the strategic objectives you set. That means having the right people in the right place with the right attitudes. It also means establishing a strong foundation for good behaviors.

I came across this presentation by the late legendary David Ogilvy, who was CEO of the advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather. He was speaking at the company’s annual year-end party, and talking particularly to new employees.

I want the newcomers to know what kind of behavior we admire and what kind of behavior we deplore.

1. First, we admire people who work hard. We dislike passengers who don’t pull their weight in the boat.

2. We admire people with first-class brains, because you cannot run a great advertising agency without brainy people.

3. We admire people who avoid politics – office politics, I mean.

4. We despise toadies who suck up to their bosses. They are generally the same people who bully their subordinates.

5. We admire the great professionals, the craftsmen who do their jobs with superlative excellence. We notice that these people always respect the professional expertise of their colleagues in other departments.

6. We admire people who hire subordinates who are good enough to succeed them. We pity people who are so insecure that they feel compelled to hire inferior specimens as their subordinates.

7. We admire people who build up and develop their subordinates, because this is the only way we can promote from within the ranks. We detest having to go outside to fill important jobs, and I look forward to the day when that will never be necessary.

8. We admire people who practice delegation. The more you delegate, the more responsibility will be loaded upon you.

9. We admire kindly people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings – particularly the people who sell things to us. We abhor quarrelsome people. We abhor people who wage paper warfare. We abhor buck passers, and people who don’t tell the truth.

10. We admire well-organized people who keep their offices shipshape, and deliver their work on time.

11. We admire people who are good citizens in their communities – people who work for their local hospitals, their church, the PTA, the Community Chest and so on.

What would it be like if every organization adhered to these principles? How much would that change your organizational culture? How much more would you accomplish as leaders?