Can you summarize your company's strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way?

That's the provocative question that David Collis and Michael Rubstad use to open their article in the April issue of Harvard Business Review ( If you can't, don't feel like you're alone. In our soon to be released 2008 Competitive Strategy Study of 100 top professional service firms, we asked the CEOs a very similar question. The result?

It's the rare leader who can clearly articulate what their firm does, who their target client is and why that client would choose them. These three “simple” points are really a lot more difficult to pin down than it may seem on the surface. Perhaps that's why so few companies do it well. Should you care? Is it important?

As Collis and Rubstad point out, the companies with a well thought out strategy that is widely understood throughout the organization (not just at the senior executive level) have a tremendous advantage. It helps shape everything from major strategic initiatives right down to day-to-day tactical choices. In our experience the impact of that consistency shows up in every aspect of your firm, from reputation to return on invested capital.