As a master strategist, I’m known for many “Karla-isms.” “The essence of strategy is choice” and “You have to say ‘no’ to say ‘yes’” are among them. Not surprisingly, the two are related. Let’s unpack this idea a little bit.

Strategy draws a roadmap which helps you say “yes” to one path and “no” to others that might be detours. If you’ve been clear about why your organization matters, it’s easier to say “no” to what you shouldn’t do and “yes” to what you should. In short, saying “no” makes more room for “yeses.”

Many executives avoid making a choice about organizational direction because it means you have to say “no.” So, they say “yes” to appease, to please, and to keep their options open. When choosing is difficult, executives find it’s easier to write it up and call it a plan, and then leave it forgotten on the shelf.

Saying “no” to say “yes” is one of the great lessons in life for organizations and individuals. Choosing “no” is vital if we are committed to focusing on priorities and making our vision a reality. The word “no” is at the crux of strategic choice. I’ve said “no” to other opportunities so I could say “yes” to Differentiation Zone. I hope you do too.