Accountable for the Verbs

At the risk of getting a bit technical, I wanted to offer a tip for adding measurability to your strategic plans because it’s come up in conversation several times this week. It comes from one of my clients who, when presenting a new plan to her Board of Directors, explained, “We’ll hold ourselves accountable for the verbs.”


If your objective says you’ll “review” or “explore” something, your performance metric should measure whether you did the review or exploration, not what you found by doing so. If you say you’ll “participate” in implementing a plan of action, you are accountable for your participation, not for whether that plan of action got implemented. And if you say you will “research and develop” a strategy for something, you should measure whether you did the research and drafted the strategy, not whether you actually executed it.  

Can you hear why intentional verbs are important? They are the initial step in describing your level of aspiration and your role.

More passive, modest verbs might be suitable for a year one action plan (i.e. we need to research before we can write, and we need to write before we can implement), but for a multi-year strategy I prefer to see organizations holding themselves accountable for the results they’ll see from those activities by the end of the life of the plan. For instance, “develop and execute” a strategy is stronger than “research and develop” it. “Implement” is stronger than “explore.”

Nerdy perhaps, but your verbs frame your ambition. Choose them carefully.

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