the Big Idea?”: Bring Your Guiding Rules Into Everyday
by Dr. Karen
Excerpted from “The Truth About
Being A Leader... and Nothing but
Our word strategy comes from the Greek strategos,
meaning military general. This suggests that strategy is
something that takes place at a high level. Although that
may traditionally be the case, in recent years the military,
along with other organizations, has increasingly placed
emphasis on empowering people at all levels to take
ownership of the organization’s core values and strategy –
its “big ideas” – and to make decisions based upon these on
a day-to-day basis.
If you want your staff to live by the “big
ideas” of your organization, it’s vital that you empower
them to do so. You do this by communicating those ideas
clearly, and by working out with them the practical ways in
which those ideas can be lived out on an everyday basis so
that they are fully part of your and their work. Don’t just
hand your employees a piece of paper to guide them; your
core strategies need to be established within their
one thing having a sense yourself and where you want the
organization to go; it’s another putting those ideas into
that others can share and identify with. What you need to do
is express two principles in particular in clear simple
language, to which others can refer in the course of their
daily work. These are the How of how you run this
business – the guiding principles or rules of engagement
that everyone needs to follow – and the Where of
where you want the organization to go. For example, do you
want your organization to have a higher profile in its
market, to increase its customer base or to increase profits
by cutting expenses?
What kind of day-to-day tactics can you use
to accomplish these overall strategies? Let’s look at an
example of how the leader of one unusual organization – the
Atlanta Braves – approached the challenge of being guided by
its big ideas every day. The team’s overall strategy is to
develop and nurture a culture of winning. That’s a bit like
the goal of increasing shareholder value or making an
organizational profitable. It’s a wonderful end point to
The Braves’ general manager established three
big ideas to guide day-to-day decisions. Everything the team
has done for fifteen years of winning has been shaped by
Big Idea 1: Everyone needs to be an “A” player.
Strategy: Move players in constantly and develop them; cull
those who have lost the winning spark.
(1) Hire talent scouts to find the right
players, construct and run player-development programs and
look at prospective players’ abilities through tests and
(2) Establish and hone athletic and mental
skills needed e.g. game toughness, confronting challenges,
adaptability and coachability.
Big Idea 2: Communicate with people
about how they are doing.
Show them respect, gratitude and trust in
their work all the time.
(1) Communicate to team they are good and
they will produce
(2) Use your leadership confidence to bolster
the team’s confidence
Big Idea 3: Use real-world evidence for real-time feedback.
(1) Use statistics to decide which players to
bring in, consistently adjust people’s judgment and leverage
their development, and to help everyone adapt to changes in
their tactics in real time.
Work with your team to find the right big
ideas right for your organization by using the Atlanta
Braves’ work as a jumping off point. Although they’ve never
paid for a number one draft choice they consistently bring
along their players through development and move out the
players who have peaked. Can you match that?