It’s not as fancy as it seems. But being ‘strategic’ and having a ‘strategy’ is critical to your personal success and for businesses, it’s the point from which all productive activity flows. Let’s walk it through.
All good strategy starts with knowing where you are.
For your personal strategy, this means having an understanding of who you are, what you are good at, what you value and having a true assessment of how your life and career are progressing. In your organization, pull out that scorecard of key metrics. How are you doing? Do you have the revenue you desire? Are your margins where they should be? It’s not enough to have the simple answer, the key in this step is understanding why the metrics are what they are. An understanding of key performance drivers and trending will enable insights we will leverage later for action planning.
Now, where is the world headed?
This might sound weird but, now, ignore your current state assessment. After all, the world doesn’t really care who you are, what you are good at or even what you want to accomplish. The market doesn’t care what your current margins are or what products or services are currently important for your survival. Go out and gather information on trends and what their outcomes will be. In your career, what are the skills and abilities that will be valued most in the future. In your organization, based on developing technology and trends, what will be the state of your marketplace 5 and 10 years from now.
What do you/your organization need to be to win in that new reality?
So, you know where you stand and you’ve got a good idea where you think the world is headed. But, in that future reality, who do you need to be and what does your organization need to be to win. Are there specific capabilities you or your team will need to differentiate yourself? What role do you need to play in the marketplace? This is the part where you outline your vision of the future and describe who you will be or what your organization will look like 5 to 10 years into the future. It’s critical that you remove constraints from your thinking. This is not an exercise in incremental improvement. You are outlining a transformation.
Gaps = Opportunity
Now you know where you are and where you want to take the business. You have a vision. You know how far from your vision you are. Now, it’s time to fill that gap. This can often be an iterative brainstorming exercise where you identify the many possible solutions you could leverage to fill the gap, assess your likelihood of success and level of effort and investment required.
Next, the hard part…You have to execute
People love to sit around and ponder the future. Up to this point though, that’s all we’ve done. We’ve talked. We’ve thought. We’ve probably put together some cool slide decks about the future and our role in it. But, unless you turn those pretty slides into actions, nothing happens. No effective strategic planning process is ever done. The key word is done. It’s a cycle where you Gather Data, make Plans, and Execute. The simplest of tasks like assigning a leader to key objectives, outlining how and when you will assess progress against a given goal, at which milestones you will re-evaluate the effort and defining how you will communicate progress to stakeholders are often the difference between real transformation and a stack a pretty slides.
You can apply this simple thought process to your own personal development or more broadly to your organization. It’s important to realize that this isn’t a once and done process. As you gather more information about your current situation and trends in the market, you have to have the mechanisms in place to be nimble and adjust where necessary to achieve your long term vision. This could be as simple as a set of quarterly reviews or perhaps, you need to reflect on your vision and action plan weekly to continue making strides in your personal development.
If you ever need assistance walking through this process for your personal development plan or for your team’s strategic plan, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love the chance to help.