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Using a Strategic Fitness Process: A First Step in Any Organizational Strategy

Using a Strategic Fitness Process

As organizations strive to meet complex economic changes in order to achieve higher competitive advantage, the discussion of strategy becomes the focus. Authors Beer & Eisenstat (2004) provide a concrete reality that can educate most any organization on how to implement strategies effectively. This requires leaders to look closely at possible obstacles, and fundamentally meet them by using a Strategic Fitness Process.

Obstacles & Solutions in Strategy Implementation

One of the largest obstacles in implementing a strategy is an organization’s inability to talk openly about past failures and increase transparency about this. One of the best ways to deal with this obstacle is to confront it head on; the most powerful way for leaders to realign their organization is to publicly confront the unvarnished truth about the barriers blocking strategy implementation. This involves looking closely at the roles and decision rights of various parts of the business, as well as changing the behavior of people at all levels. Beer & Eisenstat (2004) stress strategy implementation should be built on public, organization wide conversations about strategy, failures, and issues. Even though this can be challenging to managers and supervisors, it contributes to a species' survival by triggering learning and adaptation; it can have the same effect on organizations. Courage to face the truth is an ultimate solution!

Another obstacle is not having enough people at the table. Organizations need to be aware of the importance of the human capacity in creating the strategy, measuring the assets, and ultimately implementing the strategy. A conversation with all levels of employee conversation has to occur (Beer & Eisenstat, 2004). Stewart (2004) articulated one of the best ways to ensure a strategy implementation is successful is to start with Measuring the Strategic Readiness of Intangible Assets. Intangible assets is a two-sided sword, at human capital is both an obstacle and a solution. Organizations need to assess all levels of employee readiness, involvement, and skills prior to implementing a strategy. Any strategy needs a set of intangibles to reach it--a certain number of people skilled in cross-selling, information systems that can talk to each other, an organizational design that allows cross communication among all areas of employee skills. The conversation has to allow employees to be honest without risking their jobs.

Unstructured conversations can create issues in organizations. The conversation has to be structured to achieve honesty and full engagement (Beer & Eisenstat, 2004). Organizations at times hear “conversations” and hold public forums without a structure creating a free for all problem-solving discussion with little or no productivity.

A Strategic Fitness Process

Developed by Beer and Eisenstat (2004) to support productive, organization-wide conversations about barriers to performance the Strategic Fitness Process can assist organizations in implementing strategies effectively.

First, start with the leadership team to work through past ineffective communication, structure or power issues. Although many organizations have a leadership team most teams are either not use to working together. The responsibility for building an aligned organization cannot be delegated. The senior managers must work together to define the business strategy as well as the capabilities and values essential for long-term success.

Second, ensuring confidentially for all is a must. In most organizations, lower-level managers are afraid to talk openly about problems that may be blocking effectiveness and performance (Beer & Eisenstat, 2004). Starting from the beginning with gathering information all the way to implementation, confidentiality in opinions and feedback needs to be a priority for truthful conversations and later buy-in.

Third, create empowering discussions focused on issues. Many organizations fail to create an atmosphere in which individuals feel empowered to share. Instead they hold meetings directed by task force or managers led by power points or lectures. Instead organizations need to carefully create forums in which discussion and appreciative inquiry become the strategy for learning more about issues, needs and ideas.

Finally, develop a comprehensive plan and articulate it to the organization entirely. According to Beer and Eisenstat (2004) many organizations take action after hearing an issue without delving into the core problem. To overcome such problems, they concluded that the senior team should convene for a full three-day meeting at which feedback, diagnosis, and action planning occur. Such a meeting creates the discipline that a senior team needs to go beyond symptoms to root causes. It provides the opportunity to explore what are the causes behind the symptoms.

As most organizations move forward to implement strategies, one of the first place they need to start is which a strategy for conversations. Surprisingly few corporate leaders make a serious attempt to engage their organizations in honest conversations about the strategic and organizational issues they face. As a consequence, they lose the benefits of transparency achieved by the leaders of the organizations discussed in this article. Adopting the principles of Strategic Fitness Process is a critical first step in creating the kind of direct public conversation needed to build the collective commitment that drives rapid change, improved performance, and organizational vitality.


Beer, M. & Eisenstat, R. A. (2004). How to have an honest conversation about your business strategy. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 82(2), 82-89. Retrieved from:

Stewart, T. A. (2004, February). For strategy, the readiness is all. Harvard Business Review. p. 6.

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