Is Your Strategy Lost In The Trees Or Making A StrategicImpact™?

In today’s world of supply-chain issues, quiet quitting, quiet hiring, inflation and disinflation, it’s easy to hunker down and limit your line of sight to small details you can control or that require your immediate attention.

Strategy Research

But, in doing this, you lose sight of the destination. You become focused on managing versus leading, and you may be driving hard, but in the wrong direction.

Recently, I was reminded of this difference between managing and leading. I decided to reread a classic personal-development book and pulled out an old copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Habit 2 drives home the point of managing versus leading: Begin With the End in Mind. The paradigm shift that comes with Habit 2 is to be proactive in your endeavors, and it’s explained this way—managing is task-focused whereas leading is proactive direction guidance. In his example to make this point, he describes a team cutting their way through a jungle. The managers are sharpening machetes, writing tree-cutting policies and procedures, developing HR benefits and staffing schedules for the tree cutters. In contrast, the leaders are the ones climbing up the tree to survey the surrounding forest and land to determine if they are even working in the right jungle.

Covey goes on to describe proactive leadership using two ideas that align well with the use of market research. The first is monitors environmental change—a changing competitive landscape or emerging new industry or consumer trends. The second is provides force necessary to organize resources in the right direction. Leaders determine where to allocate budgets and staff so that the company is leveraging its resources toward the right goals and objectives. I find this idea of “beginning with the end in mind” lends itself well to market research and the idea that research initiatives need leadership as much as they need management. Leaders who embrace and utilize market research are better able to drive strategic impact from the top down.

This concept brought to mind our StrategicImpact™ Process, which aligns with Covey’s philosophy. Using our StrategicImpact™ Process, we work with companies seeking to use research as part of their strategic planning.


It excites us to be part of innovation or strategic-planning research. When research focuses on “surveying the jungle” to help guide innovation or strategic plans, proactive leaders are able to monitor changes in the competitive landscape and ensure resources are being deployed where they will have the greatest bottom-line impact.

Monitoring environmental change often looks like research that surveys the competitive landscape and industry trends. During the first two phases of the StrategicImpact™ Process, we help companies uncover the “environmental” footprint of the jungle and set the direction of the research, beginning with an alignment workshop to bring together all the relevant stakeholders who share their knowledge and vision on the initiative. This allows for alignment across teams and departments, culminating with a set of strategic objectives around the competitive market or industry trends for the research to address. In other words, the envisioned end is in place as research begins—beginning with the end in mind as Covey calls it. In instances where the research is focused on innovation or strategic planning, conducting exploratory research helps develop hypotheses about the strategic initiatives or gauge customers’ reactions to those initiatives.

Once leadership is aligned and has explored the hypotheses around the strategic initiatives, the StrategicImpact™ Process tackles quantifying data to reinforce or negate them. This allows companies to make strategic decisions around these identified objectives using data-driven results, which ensures the company is organizing resources in the right direction, which Covey describes as a tenet of proactive leadership. If questions remain or initiatives need further finessing, the quantitative phase could be followed with digging deeper by having follow-up conversations with a few customers.

Once these research phases have been completed, we see excitement build with the stakeholders attending the activation workshop as we bridge the beginning objectives and hypotheses into actionable insights that proactive leaders can use to organize resources in the right direction. As action is taken and plans are implemented, leadership should monitor the impact from the initiative, Covey’s principal of monitor for environmental change, bringing the StrategicImpact™ Process full circle.

As a leader, are you proactively managing for environmental impact or changes and organizing resources in the right direction? Through our StrategicImpact™ Process, Decision Analyst can help you focus on the right objectives and apply data-driven results to marshal your valuable resources in the right direction.


Lesley Johnson

Lesley Johnson

Senior Project Director

Lesley has built solid research experience in industries as diverse as consumer-packaged goods, durable goods, internet-based business, healthcare/medical devices, and nonprofit/governmental departments/organizations. Her efficiency, attention to detail, and broad knowledge of research ensure each of her projects has the highest level of accuracy and insight. Lesley earned a Bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Arlington and is a Certified Associate Project Manager through the Project Management Institute.

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