We spend a lot of time with clients, analyzing their industries and trying to predict the external threats that could impact their businesses. Yet the most serious threats can come from within.

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu said “know yourself and you will win all battles.” Failure to build the capabilities required to compete is just as costly as failing to understand the market you are in. Such capabilities, which generally come in the form of people, processes and technologies provide companies with the tools to earn a profit.

In our strategy work, I am constantly amazed at the limitations that companies place on themselves. Poor planning can rob an organization from having the right internal systems and people necessary to get the job done.

I am aware of a management team that spent six months fighting a costly wage and hour issue (completely out of control in California) which took the management team off course, resulting in a decline in revenue.  Such stories are common.

It is for this reason that strategy starts with the mission, values, and vision because management teams need to be intentional in answering the question, “why are we here?” It is those teams that build engagement within that create a special energy within their companies, where employees go to battle with their colleagues instead of against them.

Employee engagement is looked at by some as fluff. But one can not only consider the value that employee engagement brings in terms of employee retention but think about it as an enabler to the execution of strategy.

It is for these reasons that employees need to be involved in strategy formation, and privy to company objectives. We see two clear trends that morph the lines between strategy and employee engagement.

First companies are taking a more “bottom-up” approach. Commonly we are asked to survey (or interview) a broad range of employees, to gather their input about how the company can compete. Who knows more about what customers think (and what they need) than those who interact with them every day?

Secondly, companies are becoming more aware of the importance of cascading goals and objectives. That is, management teams can’t make decisions in a vacuum. After a strategy has been established, it needs to be clearly communicated to the people expected to execute it, and include clear objectives, action items, and KPIs.

So make sure you communicate your strategy clearly, and avoid creating the enemy within.