An Old Parable Provides a New Look at Vision and Strategy

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On August 1, 2016

An-Old-Parable-Provides-a-New-Look-at-Vision-and-StrategySometimes a simple story—even an old one—captures a business truth beautifully. Many of us grew up hearing the old parable about “Belling the Cat.” In case you’ve forgotten this classic story, here’s a recap (with a slight twist).

The employees at the start-up company MouseX, had run into an issue that kept their business from the kind of high growth they wanted. The problem was a large housecat that often interrupted their efforts at expansion—and quite frankly threatened their very existence.

 The leadership team at MouseX had clearly identified the cat as a threat in their SWOT analysis, but hadn’t yet devised a way to deal with the problem.

 One of the senior leadership mice got up on his hind legs at a quarterly meeting and announced a bold new vision (He called it a BHAG) that would solve the problem. “All we need to do,” said the Director of New Business Development, “is to attach a bell to the cat’s collar. Then, whenever she moves, we’ll be alerted to her movements and we can adjust our activities accordingly.”

 All the other members of the management team applauded this plan (and some were secretly envious—knowing that the Director of New Business Development would probably get a nice bonus for this stroke of genius). They all started talking about new markets they could open up and began making new revenue projections.

 Then one older mouse (he’d been one of the founders of the start-up) raised his paw and asked a simple question: “How are we going to attach the bell to the cat’s collar, and who specifically is going to do it?”

 The room froze. The excited voices died. Someone even turned off the PowerPoint presentation that had been running. All the mice stared at the table in front of them—unable to make eye contact with one another. The COM (Chief Operations Mouse) adjourned the meeting and everyone went back to their cubicles.

Our businesses don’t have mice for employees, but we can sometimes make the same mistake as our furry friends at MouseX: Proposing a bold vision without having a clear strategy for accomplishing that vision. Both are essential. We need visions that are big and bold and motivating—but we also need a clear outline or roadmap of how we’re going to get where we’re going. We need to define specific tasks, deadlines, budgets, and responsibilities.

If you’re looking to scale up your business, lets talk about your vision, your strategy, and specific ways you can track and adjust the execution of your strategy so that you and your team can take your company where you really want to go.