It is a strategy execution miracle: Santa Claus and his dedicated team of elves at the North Pole work tirelessly all year to prepare for Christmas. They create, wrap, and organize gifts for children worldwide based on their wish lists. The elves manage toy production, ensuring each present is made with care and craftsmanship. Santa oversees the entire operation, preparing his sleigh, checking his list, and orchestrating the global gift-giving journey. Then they manage to deliver all of those presents worldwide in one evening, a true supply chain management marvel. Together, they spread happiness, promote generosity, and make Christmas a time of wonder and joy for kids everywhere.

So, what is the secret to this achievement? Santa’s approach to strategy execution is based on five imperatives.

Leadership and Governance

The first imperative is “Leadership and Governance” or more fondly known as “Santa’s Jolly Governance.” Leading a team of elves, reindeer, and occasionally mischievous snowmen, requires more than a fluffy white beard, a red suit, and a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Santa recognizes a blend of cheer, compassion and clear directives are some of the essential elements necessary to inspire and motivate the North Pole teams.

Santa recognizes the importance of leading by example and his dedication to the Christmas mission inspires all the teams to work even harder. Santa also believes it is essential for the North Pole to operate on a flat hierarchy, where the voices of every elf, reindeer, and snowmen are heard and are considered as important as Rudolph’s shiny nose on a foggy Christmas eve.

Strategic Project Management and Portfolio Management

“Strategic Project Management and Portfolio Management,” aka at the North Pole as “Santa’s Sleigh of Products,” is another important imperative in the realm of strategy execution. Managing the myriad tasks at the North Pole is described to be much more difficult than herding cats. Just imagine trying to get all the gifts for all the children in the world, in the right order for delivery in a single sleigh and you can start to realize the importance of this imperative. It requires precise training, and expert planning from the appointed Chief Elf Project Manager (CEPM) to oversee everything. Santa uses a state-of-the art sophisticated (and magical) Project and Portfolio management system to ensure toy making, sleigh maintenance and reindeer training and conditioning stays on track throughout the year. Instead of traditional gnat charts, projects are tracked using the revolutionary Candy Cane Charts for visualizing progress.

Performance Culture

Another imperative is the importance of a “Performance Culture.” Santa renamed this culture as “Elves who Believe.” Santa recently introduced a cultural shift where the various North Pole teams would embrace a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. This means everyone is encouraged to suggest new ideas and improvements to processes. While some of the older elves were a bit resistant to change, Santa’s leadership and commitment to this imperative eventually won them over as they began to understand the benefits associated with this.

Santa related a performance culture is more than just meeting toy quotas and on-time delivery. It is about believing in magic, in teamwork, and in the joy of giving. Elves, reindeer and those sometimes pesky snowmen are not just workers; they are artisans of happiness. They participate in Jingle Bell jams, all manner of reindeer games and the occasional snowman building contests, all in the name of creating a cohesive, innovative team, where every team member plays an important role in helping achieve strategy execution.

Performance Analysis, Reporting, and Informing

The Holly Jolly Dashboard, known in strategy circles as the imperative, “Performance Analysis, Reporting, and Informing” is a fourth imperative necessary for strategy execution. Data drives decisions, especially at the North Pole. Just managing the Naughty and Nice List which constantly changes is a monumental task and requires a quantum computer to keep track of this on a worldwide basis. Factoring in all the wish lists and the ever-changing requests for Christmas gifts just adds to the strain of the IT systems utilized at the North Pole. Currently the data retained on Santa’s computers exceeds 20 yottabytes (look it up if you are curious), but it’s a whole lot of information.

Santa’s metric dashboard is discussed every Monday morning in stand-up meetings (Tinsel Town Halls) where teams briefly discuss progress and roadblocks on their current OKRs (objectives and key results). These weekly check-ins are designed to avoid past disasters such as the great Tinsel Tangle of ‘98 and to make sure everyone has an awareness of what is going on in the organization.

Aligning and Operationalizing Strategy

And finally, the last imperative dealing with “Aligning and Operationalizing Strategy,” affectionately renamed as “The Nice List Blueprint” is another critical element of successful strategy execution. Santa’s strategic plan is not hidden under a snowdrift, nor deep down in a Christmas stocking somewhere. It is as transparent and vibrant as the Northern lights on a clear night. Aligning and operationalizing strategy at the North Pole means ensuring every toy, every sleigh route, and every cookie recipe is meticulously planned and in absolute alignment with the ultimate goal of delivering joy. Every team member is well-versed in the utilization of Merry Metrics to ensure daily tasks are aligned with the grand plan.

Every elf, reindeer and snowman demonstrate an unwavering resolve to make this year’s Christmas more magical than any year in the past. Pride swells within all the teams as they realize the importance of their contribution to bringing the Christmas production and delivery processes to peak efficiencies never before experienced.

Santa’s adoption of the five imperatives not only bolsters efficiency, but also instills a profound send of unity and purpose amongst the North Pole teams. As Santa’s sleigh blasts off into the snowy eve, the North Pole teams realize they are part of something extraordinary. They will accomplish something that 90% of organizations around the world fail to do well: they successfully execute their strategy!

We can’t get you an appointment with Santa as this is his busy season. But if you need more information on these five imperatives, we can help. Check out our newly developed course on Strategy Execution:

Merry Christmas Everyone!


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Terry is Balanced Scorecard Institute's Director of Training and Senior Associate with over 30 years of experience working in both the private and public sectors.

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