The other day, I had an ah-ha moment. Strategic thinking is misunderstood. Let’s change that, now.
Lately, I have been spending a lot of time counselling clients and writing about the importance of having your own WHY. (Besides keeping you focussed and moving forward, it helps you stay positive on your worst days, ensures you stand out and stand apart from your competition AND greatly improves your chances of hiring and keeping the best team ever — just to name a few of the benefits.)
What I haven’t done is provide an adequate context. And without a good context, the crux of any message is lost. And then corrective actions are not taken. Which means you run the risk of staying frustrated that your business and/or your teams are not performing at the level you want.
So, today let’s cover the hows, the whats and the wheres very broadly. And then let’s link them all back to your why. Because that is what strategic thinking really is!
Any business, large or small, private or public, franchise or not, international or national, has four layers supporting it. Imagine the structure like a triangle along the lines of this:
For this exercise, let’s call the yellow band your WHY. The green band is all about your WHEREs. The orange band pertains to your WHATs and the bottom magenta band is your HOWs.
The WHY band
In days long past, this was your very sterile VISION. Today, it is your emotional WHY. It is the FIRST stage you want to sort out — your reason for being. The impact you intend for your business. (For some ideas, refer to this post.)
Broadly, define your goals for the products or services you provide. More specifically, define the transformation you make in your world. (As in what is the IMPACT you are trying to deliver.) And be sure to give some thought to the general structure of your business model.
The WHERE band
WHERE refers to the areas you intend to make that impact. You want to define your geographies, your industries and your customer types. Previously, you might have heard this referred to as the MISSION. In very traditional organisations, this is where strategic planning takes place.
These days, there is less emphasis on strategic planning and more on defining the messaging, the offerings and the outreach to accomplish the goal of your WHY.
Truthfully, for most businesses, it doesn’t matter if there is a formal strategic plan in place or not. What matters most is that there is a link.
The link connects the high-level broad thought process of your WHY with the actions you are going to take to accomplish it this year. And this is where the best strategic thinking takes place. Because you are figuring out the ways to make your WHY real.
The WHAT band
This is your annual business plan. It is about he 5-10 key steps you need to do in order to deliver on your WHY and WHERE. Completed once a year; updated quarterly. It holds all the metrics employees get paid to deliver.
Some of the detailed steps are further subdivided by function. Others by market. All of the steps are matched to targets and specific actions.
The HOW band
This is the foundational piece. Your business gets built at this level. One brick at a time. The nitty-gritty details of your WHAT are here. This includes your policies, procedures, standards, structures and activities of who does what where. The is the action centre for the furtherance of your WHY.
I want you to look at this triangle and consider how you manage your department, your division, your business. Now ask yourself two questions. How much time and money do you personally spend on each level? Does that time or effort and money generate a solid ROI for your WHY?
And the typical results these days —
Too many business leaders and executives spend their time grinding away in the HOW band. It is here, that shiny object syndrome occurs. This is the spot where massive amounts of time and resources are invested. Like learning more courses and ratcheting up new skills. Or buying more marketing trinkets or experimenting with yet another social media app. This is where all the dashing to and fro occurs in trying new approaches. A lot of this is indeed good stuff and sometimes does work. When the WHYs and WHEREs are FIRST nailed down!
The sad fact I see repeatedly is very few businesses have established what impact they want to make. (Remember, making an impact is not about being the best, beating your competition, making a return for the shareholders or even ‘satisfying’ your customer. ) So, when the WHY is missing, crafting and sticking to the business plan is super hard.
To move forward
It is not difficult to develop a business plan for the next year. However, for it to be solid and deliverable, the focus of everyone must be steadfast on the WHY during the year. That is why the strategic thinking behind the WHY is paramount.
Today, too many are focusing only on the HOW. And more specifically, either berating the bits that did NOT meet the standards or ignoring/changing the foundation level. Frankly, this is the most dangerous of all. Because without a clear and focused WHY in front, they merely orchestrate a symphony of circle spinning. And never move forward.
Want to leap forward and maximize your impact? Seriously consider having a mentor in your back pocket. Start here.
And by the way, if you haven’t yet checked out the podcast, People First, Profits Second, you might find the last two episodes about listening more deeply and managing your anger thought-provoking.
To your success!
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