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The Eisenhower Principle Applied to Business Strategy Management
How did Dwight Eisenhower help solve some of the biggest problems of the mid-twentieth century? Put simply, he made them even bigger. Using the "Eisenhower Principle", he figured out a way to prevent the details of the small problems from bogging him down so much that he lost sight of the big picture. Stepping back to see all the factors contributing to a problem allowed the solution to become clearer.
Recently, I was reminded of General Dwight Eisenhower's penchant for effectively executing strategy. In World War II, Eisenhower coordinated the largest military undertaking ever with the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He not only managed huge sea, air, and land forces, but also accounted for unpredictable weather as well as the political wills of Roosevelt, Churchill, and de Gaulle.
When asked about his success, Eisenhower said "Whenever I run into a problem I can't solve, I always make it bigger. I can never solve it by trying to make it smaller, but if I make it big enough, I can begin to see the outlines of a solution."
Eisenhower's approach to problem-solving is unique and made him a successful leader in many different settings. The "Eisenhower Principle" he outlines remains relevant and applies directly to business strategy management and leaders today.
What Eisenhower Taught Us About Business Strategy Management
Organizations sometimes take an approach towards strategy management that is too detailed or too narrowly focused. Management By Objective (MBO) can give you a random set of objectives that do not link together in any coherent fashion. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) also can get an organization focused on something small, and not necessarily strategic. While both approaches have some great benefits, sometimes they come up short in holistically managing the strategy.
With the Balanced Scorecard, a Strategy Map allows an organization to see the entire strategy on one page. This one page view allows an organization to see how their objectives link together and how their measures align to the entire strategy. "Themes" or groups of objectives can really help an organization focus on its strategy. Themes can be created by looking for common areas across a set of strategic objectives, or they can be devised by using the Eisenhower Principle.
In this approach, think about the areas where you are really struggling with your strategy, and take a step back. Are there some underlying causes or issues that need to be addressed? Is there a bigger problem that needs to be addressed? Can you take a step back and see the issue in a different way that will allow you to take a divergent approach towards solving the crisis?
I think many times stepping back from the frenetic activity or crisis will allow an organization to see a new approach, underlying theme, or broader set of issues that need to be addressed in order to better achieve their mission. Improving the performance of an objective, measure, or initiative may not need laser focus, but instead a broad view of the entire management of your business' strategy and all the factors. Next time you are faced with a problem, apply the Eisenhower Principle... make it bigger.