Vision, Strategy & Execution
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
The life of Noah, as described in the bible, is a case study: Social, economic, environmental deterioration combined with personal/business disruption and ultimately transformation. If you are reading this in 2020, it might sound familiar. We can learn a lot about surviving & thriving during a crisis from the story of Noah and the flood.
In this post, I focus on 3 topics: vision delivered through revelation, Strategy and execution.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” Proverbs 29:18
Nicky Gumbel explains vision as “a combination of a deep dissatisfaction with what is and a clear grasp of what could be”.
Mary worked cleaning floors to pay her way through the university. She really wanted to be a banker (mainly because she believed Bankers earned a lot of money) - yet she cleaned floors at a bank building. Although she often felt embarrassed by her work, she had a vision. Deeply dissatisfied with financial lack - the current situation where she’d found herself perhaps due to decisions made by others, she knew that a strong degree was her only chance to a high paying bank job. As far as she was concerned, 4 years scrubbing floors, attending classes tired and studying at night was worth it. Vision makes the sacrifice worth it.
The first element of vision is the “dissatisfaction with what is” – acknowledging that there is something better. Lacking the ambition to be better or do better can lead to stagnancy and consequently, decay. In any facet of life there is always the opportunity to improve. In our spiritual lives, the Bible advises continuous transformation (Romans 12 vs 2) and asks “him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12) – there is the need for a continuous review of faith. The path of the just is like the shining sun (already shining), that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). This principle is relevant in daily living.
In business, a start-up springs up and takes market share because they have improved on the existing market offerings but if such business fails to continuously improve its product, the market catches up, it loses its differentiating factor and market share. In academics, one-off hard work can help you pass a subject, but a first-class student is the product of habit i.e. consistently seeking to improve.
The second element of vision is a clarity on the result that is expected or “a clear grasp of what could be”. Stephen Covey’s second law of highly effective people summarizes this efficiently as “begin with the end in mind”. It is not enough to simply be dissatisfied with the present – that’s who a dreamer is, we must be clear on what the end should be. When I bought my first house, it was not what I wanted it to be, but I did not just send workers in to start doing whatever they wanted – the result would have been an even worse disaster and a waste of resources. First, I worked with an architect to create a design, an expected result on paper. When the design was finalized, I set out to transform the documented plan into reality.
The caveat here for a believer is that God is the architect with whom we must build our expected reality. In fact, God must have the final say on our expected reality because for many of us, our future hopes are based on material expectation (large house, cars etc.) as against being set on a path that maximizes our ability to impact this world for Christ or positively transform lives in meaningful ways. Noah lived a just life, he lived a different reality even though everything around him was falling apart, God noticed and rewarded him.
Strategy Genesis 6 vs. 14 – 21
“And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of…” Genesis 6 vs. 15
God describes to Noah in detail exactly what he was to do to survive a coming crisis. Strategy is plotting a series of steps between where we start our journey and where we expect to end it. Strategy often sounds like a business topic, but it applies to our lives as well. It’s not enough to simply be dissatisfied with where we are or to have lofty aspirations for the future, we need to have a workable plan. Workable does not mean easy (Noah’s was not) to implement but it needs to be suitable for purpose. Every good strategy must be resilient and functional.
To create a resilient plan, we must consider elements outside our control. It didn’t matter that Noah was a skilled sailor, if his boat was incapable of preventing leaks or the wood from disintegrating from a heavy and prolonged rainfall it would sink.
“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” Genesis 6 vs. 14
In business planning, there is the concept of stress testing – taking all the factors that could have significant impact on your strategy during the period and modelling an adverse movement up to a probability driven threshold. A resilient strategy is designed to withstand stress.
It was impossible for Moses to envisage the extent of the rain and flood, so I emphasize again the point of God being the architect of our strategies. We depend on human architects because they have the technical knowledge and often experience to arrive at a final design while maintaining structural integrity. This is the same reason God must be the architect of our lives; we need to depend on him even as we plan the future – indeed he has seen that future and has it in his hands.
The strategy was also functional. Noah’s boat had very little style but was large enough to carry all the animals and people for up to 6 months – serving both as a home and a zoo. Your strategy needs to work for the purpose it was created, usually to get you from one place to another. What’s the point of a car that moves at the speed of light, if it breaks its passengers in pieces before the get to their destination?
Differentiating between a plan and strategy: A plan answers the “what” question, strategy focuses on “how”
Execution Genesis 6:22
It is remarkably easy to build castles in the sky but what gives us a chance to achieve our objective is the action we take. If you take no action, there is no chance of success. Noah did not survive the flood simply because he was just or because God revealed a secret to him, he survived the flood because he acted. Diligent action in line with strategy is called execution. Execution can be hard and tricky, but….
“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men” Proverbs 22 vs. 29 (KJV)
Executing a plan to success is never easy, especially when the goal is worth it. For context, Dutch builder Johan Huibers reconstructed an ark to the specifications stated in the bible. It cost $1.2million, required 12,000 trees and took 14 years for more than 20 people to build. Imagine the effort it would have required from the biblical Noah…but that’s what success required.
We cannot just be dissatisfied and depressed about today. We need look to God for a better tomorrow, trust his plan and most importantly, execute God’s plan in absolute obedience no matter what it takes.
The devil attacks each stage of the 3 processes, he attacks our minds through poor education and media etc. to ensure we have a warped, materialistic view of everything around us. We are not aware of the reality around us, and if we are, he makes it difficult to have a clear or true of God’s future. He also takes us away from finding God who, like He did to Moses, can reveal his vision to us. If we seek God and find a vision, the devil makes us too busy to plan and he uses depression, procrastination & temptations to prevent us from executing God’s plan (see Eve & Jesus https://www.wordclassseries.com/post/misalignment-the-first-break-up).
Indeed, the 3 steps required here in themselves (vision, strategy & execution without introducing God) give anyone a high chance of success, companies use this approach all the time. So why do we need God? Because there is much we do not know or control, but He has the whole world in his hands. Lot made the mistake of trusting in his materialistic view of things when he wanted to decide his future home, see how that turned out. Our vision for tomorrow needs to be set by God, otherwise even when we achieve it, it might not provide the sense of satisfaction we expect. We also need to trust God in strategy and action - we can plan for anything, but who knows what the conditions will be when it’s time to act. COVID19 has shocked the world in 2020, no matter what our plans were, they are likely to have been disrupted. But God can make a way, even in crisis. Execution also requires wisdom, knowledge, understanding and skill – all are gifts from God (Exodus 31:3, also remember Solomon 2 Chronicles 1:10 & Timothy 2 Timothy 1:7).
The greatest vision anyone can have is that of himself/herself as a sinner and the embrace of salvation as the solution. Christ has paid the price. But there is an action to take in order to inherit the transformative power of salvation and an inheritance of sonship. It is that you must “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”.
This is the opportunity for a fresh start and a glorious end.