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One Phrase Strategy – Seven Strata of Strategy

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Jan 9, 2014

In Cascade Your Annual Strategy & Planning we noted statistics from a recent leadership survey reported 92% of CEO’s feel their leadership team can communicate their strategy.   The same survey revealed that only 2% of their leadership team actually could! depositphotos 10453878 Strategy wordcloud (1) resized 600

Simplifying your strategy into 35 words or less as we recommend in developing Your Strategy Statement is the first step to accomplishing this intention of a One Phrase Strategy. 

Great companies know the value of this since communicating strategy from top to bottom is essential to get everyone’s oar in the water pulling in the same direction.  Southwest Airlines One Phrase Strategy is “Wheels Up!”   GE’s has long been, “first or second in every market or we are out”  – GE would only settle for being the leader or #2 in each market they had products\services, or they would exit the market and not compete – simple, clear and compelling.

Here’s Verne’s short description from his Fortune Magazine article on the Seven Strata of Strategy:   “Create a one-PHRASE strategy. Underlying the brand promises you express is a one-PHRASE strategy that drives your business model. As you know from reading my recent column on the topic (now live on, this isn’t necessarily a selling point you make to your customers, but it supports delivering on your promises. Southwest Airlines’ “Wheels Up” one-PHRASE strategy has kept every strategic and tactical decision, like no-advanced reservation seating, directed at keeping its planes in the air and generating profits so it can keep airfares low.  I strongly suggest you keep your one-PHRASE strategy relatively secret, which is why I’m not sharing’s.”

In Creating the Discipline of the Advantage we discussed Patrick Lencioni’s book the Advantage and the four elements that describe a Healthy Organization.  Here are Lencioni’s Four Disciplines that comprise The Advantage:

  • Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
  • Discipline 2: Create Clarity
  • Discipline 3: Over-Communicate Clarity
  • Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity

Is it any coincidence that the last three all focus on the importance of clarity.  If just two per cent of your leadership team can communicate your strategy, how many team members do you believe know your strategy at the tactical level of your business?  How does this affect your business growth and even employee engagement?  A recent Gallup Poll showed only 13% of employee’s are fully engaged.  Is a lack of clarity on your company’s strategy a critical element preventing your business from communicating and getting staff fully engaged?

Determining your Strategy Statement is a good first step to help you discover your One Phrase Strategy.  Another powerful tool I’ve mentioned several times is to discover your Inside Advantage.   Bob Bloom’s book is a step by step guide to helping you uncover what secret sauce lies inside your business that can catapult you toward greatness.  For Positioning Systems our one phrase strategy is “Strategic Discipline.”

One of my clients developed their Strategy Statement and Core Purpose.  Their Core Purpose ties directly to their Strategy Statement, and has become a rallying cry for the business on how they differentiate themselves in a very competitive marketplace from their rival. 

Identifying your One Phrase Strategy requires an additional step.  You must support it with differentiating actions.  Indeed usually discovering it presents ideas on how to reinforce and build these differentiating actions.

We’ll look at the next element of the Seven Strata of Strategy, 3-5 Activities that support and differentiate your strategy in our next blog.  

Topics: Business Growth, strategy, The Advantage, Southwest Airlines, Strategy Statement

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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