January 27, 2014


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Sorting the order is often harder than getting the clarity.


Hold out your money. Speak your soup order in a loud, clear voice. Step to the left and receive.

Step to the left too early…NO SOUP FOR YOU! Too slow with the money…NO SOUP FOR YOU!

The Soup Nazi cares about proper sequencing. The good people of Seinfeld who want to enjoy delicious soup care about proper sequencing. You should too.

Order Matters If getting the order right didn’t matter, air traffic controllers wouldn’t be concerned about which airplane landed when. If getting the order right didn’t matter, baseball managers wouldn’t care who hit in the clean-up spot and who hit ninth. If getting the order right didn’t matter, the chef wouldn’t pay attention to when he put the dishes in the oven so that they all arrive at your table hot.

You get the picture. Order does matter.

In organizational strategy, order is one of the often-overlooked qualities that can spell the difference between a W and an L. Strategic sequencing is simply the arranging of items in a specific order for a specific purpose—what goes first, second, third, and so on.

Order as a Competitive Advantage The purpose of good sequencing is to gain an advantage.

While bad sequencing leads to inefficiencies, redundancy, and guesswork, good sequencing can help build on prior momentum. It can ensure that your initiative gets off to a fast start. It can allow you to seamlessly slide into the larger stampede of events.

The owner of a restaurant in New Orleans should realize that the upcoming Mardi Gras period is going to mean a spike in reservations.

She’ll be wise to keep the carnival season in mind as she plans the timing of such things as rolling out a new promotion, updating the website, hiring additional staff, ordering supplies, scheduling vacations, and more. None of this is minor. If she gets the timing or the order wrong on one or more of these items, it could turn Fat Tuesday into Skinny Tuesday for her business.

Payoff of Sequencing Done Well

  • Sequencing the steps of your strategy well can make your operation more efficient. What happens if the two-by-fours haven’t shown up at the building site when the framers—who are on your payroll—are scheduled and ready to swing a hammer?
  • Sequencing can maintain productivity. If the TSA isn’t staffing the checkpoints properly for peak travel times, the security line is going to stretch all the way back to the Cinnabon shop.
  • Sequencing can anticipate if-this-then-that outcomes. A city planning team tasked with rejuvenating downtown might choose to focus first on upgrading the shopping district and only later expand the public transit system to handle the increased load of travelers.

To sequence well, step back and take a wide- angle view of your business or nonprofit. Identify the needle-moving choices that trigger other choices. Don’t forget that pausing can be one part of your sequencing order that can help align you with smart timing. For more on sequencing and the step of pausing, see my new book Strategy 3.0 Agile & Adaptable | Fast & Focused. As with any other part of strategy, stay flexible and revise as you go.


Getting clarity on what you want to do is crucial for your strategy. But setting the parts of your strategy into motion at the right time and in the right order may be even more crucial. Don’t overlook it.

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