A career-based mentor once said to me: “Strategy is informed decisions and timely action.” What this quote leaves out is the fact that an “informed decision” may be still be the wrong one, and “timely actions” may miss their mark entirely. So how do we get strategy right?
Well, that mentor was also very emphatic on individual agency and professional curiosity, so his lesson on strategy was also a lesson on seeing beyond what you are told by an authority, and instead using information as a tool to engage and drive learning. My own experience in dealing with multiple strategies have allowed me to see the complexity of his simple statement and as such, my job will be to unpack the details he happened to leave out – while leaving you some room for your own exploration. So let’s review his statement: “Strategy is…
The most important ingredient in getting strategy right is objectivity. The Must Haves when acid-testing a decision as a good strategic one are:
Strategy is often a series of assumptions about actions and reactions. Therefore to make the necessary decisions we must know: who our actors are; the environment within which our actors exist; the prevailing concerns and motives of each actor and finally;
Here is where the conventional thinking has long died with most strategists. Convention dictates the considerations as (1) Where am I; (2) Where do I want to go; (3) What do I need to get there; but I (and others) recommend that good strategy comes from keeping your purpose – or your END goal foremost. This means you begin with “Where do I want to go?” and not “Where am I?”. As a matter of fact your present state is the least of your worries, the fact that you’ve decided to be strategic has made it inherent that you will change. To stay “on-purpose” ask these questions instead: (1) Where do I want to go; (2) When do I want to get there; (3) What three things (at most) will let me know I’ve gotten there; (4) What do I need to achieve each of those three things?
This is where most focus when they hear the term “informed decisions” – that is, decisions based on the available irrefutable evidence currently available. Good strategy allows much room for flexibility while leaving little room for error. The only way to do this is through verifiable data surrounding the topic of your decisions.
“When you realize you aren’t the smartest person in the room you will finally [begin to appreciate your value]” – paraphrasing Michael Fairbanks of the On The Frontier group during a training session. I believe Mr. Fairbanks was teaching about the merits of self-deprecation and humility, but more so it was a lesson on being smart enough to accept that your own knowledge and skills pales in comparison to the collective genius of “the room”. Good strategy isn’t sound because you say so, good strategy is sound because the small core of people whose opinions you trust can’t poke holes in it!
“Strategy is informed decisions and timely action” – we’ve unpacked one half of this. Let’s look at the other half next week! Thanks for reading and feel free to add your own input.
Image credits: http://careergirlnetwork.com/finish-what-you-start/