The Strategy and The Story

Ben Horowitz provides the basic framework he uses to evaluate CEOs at Andreessen Horowitz.   The framework asks 3 questions:

1. Does the CEO know what to do?
2. Can the CEO get the company to do what she knows?
3. Did the CEO achieve the desired results against an appropriate set of objectives?

Central to knowing what to do and getting the company moving forward is the ability of the CEO to outline the company's story and strategy.

"The CEO must set the context that every employee operates within. This context gives meaning to the specific work that people do, aligns interests, enables decision-making and provides motivation. Well-structured goals and objectives contribute to the context, but they do not provide the whole story. More to the point, goals and objectives are not the story.  The story of the company goes beyond quarterly or annual goals and gets to the hardcore question of why? Why should I join this company? Why should I be excited to work here? Why should I buy your product? Why should I invest in the company? Why is the world better off as a result of this company’s existence?

When a company clearly articulates its story, the context for everyone—employees, partners, customers, investors, and the press—becomes clear. 

When a company fails to tell its story, you hear phrases like:

  1. “These reporters don’t get it.”
  2. “Who is responsible for the strategy in this company?”
  3. “We have great technology, but need marketing help.”

The CEO doesn’t have to be the creator of the vision. Nor does she have to be the creator of the story. But she must be the keeper of the vision and the story. As such, the CEO ensures that the company story is clear and compelling.

The story is not the mission statement; the story does not have to be succinct. It is the story. Companies can take as long as they need to tell it, but they must tell it and it must be compelling. A company without a story is a usually a company without a strategy."

from Ben Horowitz post –  "How Andreesen Horowitz Evaluates CEOs"


  1. It’s a great article. But then again, these guys just talk so much common sense. I heard Werner CIO at Amazon speak about how Jeff Bezo’s knew that the market “wouldn’t get” the new Amazon Services strategy (hosting etc) and that they would suffer for it, initially. How many CEO’s would would take a definite short term hit, for a long term (uncertain, unproven) gain?

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