So, why are leaders surprised when they ask and can’t answer the question: ‘are we making progress in whatever we are paid to do?’
Leaders and senior managers deal, or should deal with strategic stuff in day to day business affairs. Yet matters to do with strategy, including the: planning – thought process – articulation – and documentation are ‘dry’, mind-boggling and at times academic.
Plan small and not big?
Processing ideas and the ensuing outcomes, within the realm of strategy, requires quite a chunk of cerebral bandwidth. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that it’s usually challenging to get those around us to play ball on matters strategy. It’s not something people want to associate with every day.
Because of the above pains – more often than not, people in professional environments tilt towards the mundane and comfortable – i.e. the urgent stuff that needs doing now, but not necessarily the most important and strategic. We forget that it’s the important stuff that secures the viability of your business in the longterm. The urgent, on the other hand, mainly strengthens your short-term cashflow pipeline and the ensuing short-term liquidity – including paying salary for the current month.
The urgent tasks unlike the important, hardly address your brand sustenance in the longterm. Yes, many of you must be familiar with the ‘important’ vs ‘urgent’ task debate. Unfortunately, the latter is rarely grounded in the context of organisational strategic discourse and the link to long term survival.
So, because strategy is cold, cumbersome and awkward, many leaders end up acquiescing to human nature. How? By choosing the mundane and comfortable at every opportunity, and delaying for another day, what is cumbersome and cerebral-bandwidth stretching. Even when you the leader wants to pay deserving attention to matters strategy, it’s not always that those around you – your professional neighbours at work, are of the same thinking and belief, let alone calibre.
The ilk that thinks and drives strategic discourse and action at work isn’t always common. Strategy has so many ‘loose’ characteristics and manifestations that make the subject the ever-elusive arm of management. Strategy is forgettable. It’s dry, uninteresting and not a ‘now’ thing. Business can disregard it and survive in the short to the medium term.
Now, here is a quick ‘acid test’ on the above narrative: go find out how often leadership team colleagues have been back to a document called ‘strategic plan’ in the last quarter or even one year; you may be shocked that it’s typically zero or on very few occasions. We only reference this document when preparing for board meetings, quarterly or annual reviews, etc.
The planning process and product, that many organisations spend thousands of dollars developing, is so quickly forgotten that we wonder if it’s necessary to spend money and time doing strategic planning at organisations. Especially since we can and have run our businesses without these so-called plan – and still survive.
May alignment to environmental realities and the survival that results from, a process that’s ‘guaranteed’ by our choice of business field, market position, and the products and services that we offer to markets and not the so-called strategic plan? If the latter weren’t the case, how could we abandon strategy soon after it’s been crafted but still survive?
Do we need strategy and strategic plans at organisations?
Are we throwing away money by developing plans and not refer to them enough? Should we be bold and accept that strategic plans in the 24/7 digital ecosystem are a branding tool – via our websites and other public-facing engagements, and less and less of a business environment alignment and unique value addition tool?
For the defenders of strategic planning – what about this: haven’t we harped on and on about the current environment being so turbulent that you can’t predict business choices/approaches for tomorrow? How do we then write viable futuristic strategic plans in the latter circumstances?
Yet despite all the above, we at the Effectiveness lab opine that we need ‘strategy’ and its twin ‘plan’. Not understanding how to work with strategy, and the fact that you have been lucky to survive the latter, doesn’t negate its need.
It’s a matter of looking into effective strategy deployment dynamics – execution. But let us get into that next week in series 2