Training: The Bond That Tethers Vision and Strategy to Alignment and Execution

CEOs are disruptive forces. They are expected to maintain or nurture far less than they are to challenge and evolve. For decades, most have invested significantly to develop a well-rounded, operational understanding of the complex forces that drive commerce. I had the distinct pleasure toward the end of last year to discuss all of that with David Brennan, retired CEO of AstraZeneca, in a webinar you can find here: Training: The Driving Force of Strategic Alignment.

David is a person with a life-long reputation for reducing complex forces into “bite-sized parts” that generally all of us can get our heads around. What follows is evidence of that skill set focused on some highly recognizable topics.

  • Vision is (for all intents and purposes) the act or power of imagination. In large part, the primary responsibility of a CEO is to create a hypothetical (and hopefully desirable) future state, then get people within the organization to both “see it” and embrace it, in active acknowledgement of the risks that could impede or derail its successful pursuit. Vision is a leader-driven thing that intentionally both introduces and drives change
  • Strategy is a plan or a policy designed to put vision into action. Good strategy is simple strategy. Little is left open for interpretation. It’s simple. It’s practical. It’s understandable. Everybody in your organization might not pass a pop quiz when asked to recite company strategy from memory, but everybody should be able to tell you what it means and how it guides their day-to-day priorities when asked to “connect those dots”
  • Alignment is the process of orienting actions with strategy and vision. Say you’re walking down the street past a construction site and you see three contractors laying bricks. You ask all three what they are doing. The first one looks at you incredulously and says, “I’m putting mortar on these bricks.” The second one says, “I’m building a wall.” The third one says, “I’m constructing a monument!” Net – net, the more alignment you can generate, the higher the probability that your monument will be erected on time and to specification!
  • Training is teaching or helping others to develop relevant skills. In many respects it is the function within the organization that tethers vision and strategy to alignment and execution. In that context, training is a key contributing factor to an organization’s ability to manage performance and manage change
    • Performance management is an ongoing process that supports the accomplishment of strategic objectives. Traditionally, this process begins with the formulation of well-constructed performance objectives that support the strategy, culminates with an objective evaluation of each employee’s contributions to the cause (regardless of whether they are “putting mortar on bricks, building a wall, or constructing a monument”) and is dependent upon the abilities of all employees to both give and receive performance feedback
    • Change management is a systematic response to emergent circumstance. The risks that are acknowledged in the vision, and seemingly accounted for in the strategy, inevitably produce unsettling and unexpected challenges that can most assuredly impede progress. Training can play a critical role in preparing leaders at all levels within an organization to effectively respond to change in a manner that keeps “the train on the tracks”


  1. Consider the content of this blog and identify:
    1. One action you could take to improve your effectiveness at either giving or receiving performance feedback.
    2. One action you could take to improve your effectiveness in response to unforeseen change.