It’s Summer And The Strategy Is Not Easy

June 21, 2015 by

“You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing small things, so that the small things go in the right direction.” Alvin Toffler

I’m guessing that if we were able to pile up all the “Strategic Plan” binders from every organization, they’d reach some staggering distance, like to Jupiter and back, or fill the Marianas Trench 5 times over.

Strategies, like plans, are useless, it’s the strategizing that’s needed. And in order to go from strategizing to planning to implementing to succeeding, you’ve got to have the whole organization on board.

“One may know the condition of a whole army from a single man.” Sun Tzu

What are ways to know if an organization is aware of and working towards achieving strategic goals? Well, asking a few people would be one way. Here’s some sample questions:

  1. What’s a couple of important goals the organization wants to achieve in the coming year or so? Hint: “I don’t know” would be a negative indicator. Everybody from the CEO to call center staff, should be able to demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge and even better how her or his job relates.
  2. Why are those goals important? Hint: “Because that’s what the (boss, CIO, CFO) wants” is a bad answer. The answer should be in terms of the market, mission, customer – almost anything other than what some leader wants. What I want is immaterial. What’s good for the customer and therefore the organization, that’s material.
  3. Do you know what projects are going on that are working towards those goals? Demonstrating a rudimentary knowledge of the effort involved in achieving goals is indicative of good communication and knowing where one connects with the important work of moving the organization forward.
  4. Where did you hear about these goals? Hint: “From my buddy in finance” is not the greatest answer. You should be looking for meetings, collaboration tools, internal intranet, something that indicates thought is being given to ensuring everyone is appropriately informed.
  5. Do you know where to find out more information about the goals or related projects? Hint: See #4. People need knowledge about the goals AND knowledge about progress.

It is no easy task, in large organizations, to ensure top to bottom understanding and alignment. Leaders need to consciously ask themselves to what extent questions like the ones above could be reliably answered, and ensure they are investing effort accordingly. CXOs, make sure the single person in a call center, maintenance, development group, or finance department fully understands and is engaged in the delivery of strategy. Or else the strategy could be useless.

Asides:

When looking for some quotes about strategy for this blog, I noticed a fair amount of  Sun Tzu, “The Art of War.” Including this one, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, strike like a thunderbolt.” Which brings to mind a lot of failed projects I’ve witnessed. You know, the ones that go off and work behind closed doors, spend a lot of money, then smite the organization with chaos, confusion and delay.

It’s officially summer, and today is Father’s Day. Thanks Dad for your love and support.

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