Are You Being Strategic?

| | Leading Organizations
Are You Being Strategic?

Does success mean checking things off of your “to do” list or project plan, or does success mean achieving an outcome or result that is strategic and matters to you or others?

For example…

…when you go to college, do you ultimately aspire to get a degree or to get a good paying job?

…when you implement a new system, is success defined by turning the system “on” or by what your company can now do or do better because you put that system in place?

…when you implement a new marketing plan, is success declared the day you launch that new campaign or do you wait to declare success when you reach your sales target?

Of course, it is important to celebrate the completion of the things we set out to do.  Getting a degree, implementing a new system, and developing a new marketing plan are all things that take hard work and should be celebrated.

But they aren’t necessarily results in and of themselves.  And they may not even lead to the results you expect or want.

…You can get a degree and end up with debt rather than with a great paying job. 

…You can implement a new system and it can create confusion and frustration making you less efficient. 

…You can invest in creating a new marketing plan and fail to increase sales enough to make that plan worth the investment.

These are examples of the cost of failing to think strategically in everything you do.

The truth is that most action plans are not strategic, and that may be costing you and your team or organization more time, money and satisfaction than you realize.

In working with thousands of leaders around the world I continue to be amazed at the degree to which the concept of strategy is so widely misunderstood.  In part, this is because some believe strategy is only the job of the people at the very top in an organization.  Yet even at the executive levels in organizations I often heat about strategic planning meetings that produce action plans that are not based on a solid foundation of strategic thinking.

What makes an action plan strategic?

The Webster definition of “strategy” is “a plan of action”, and the definition of “strategic” is “crucial”. So it follows that a Strategic Plan is a “crucial plan of action”.

Sounds simple, right?

People certainly get the planning and the action part. However, there is one ingredient that distinguishes a strategic plan from any other plan of action.

It’s this one ingredient that makes it a “crucial” plan and it isn’t evident in the definition.

The one thing that makes an action plan strategic is the promise of an outcome.

I use the word “promise” because a strategic action plan is more than just a direction – it defines specifically what success looks like in terms of outcomes that can be measured or observed.

Success in executing a strategic plan is declared, not based on the completion of the actions themselves, but by the value ultimately created by the actions taken.

Why do leaders need to be more strategic?

Leaders are counted on to deliver results that matter. To reliably deliver results that matter you must think and act strategically in everything you do. Effective leaders…

…predict the future by promising to deliver a future as they define it, and then rigorously ensure they make it so.

…begin with the end in mind, and ensure the tactics over time deliver on that outcome.

…adjust course along the way as “as intentions collide with and accommodate a changing reality” (Henry Minztberg).

Even while adjusting course, effective leaders never lose sight of the end game – the reason why they and their team or organization do what they do, as well as the specific definition of how they will know they have succeeded.

Now take a look at your latest action plan and ask yourself: are you truly being strategic?


Enter A Comment

Mike Henry Sr.   |   25 October 2017   |   Reply

Challenging post Susan. Too many of my plans don’t have a desired outcome. Great reminder. Thanks.

Susan Mazza   |   25 October 2017   |   Reply

Thanks for taking the challenge Mike!

John Ogard   |   25 October 2017   |   Reply

Intentions colliding with reality…oh my how true.

Susan Mazza   |   25 October 2017   |   Reply

Yes indeed! I love that phrasing of what seems like a perpetual conundrum in life and business!

Chery Gegelman   |   26 October 2017   |   Reply

Great reminder Susan! Thank you!

Susan Mazza   |   26 October 2017   |   Reply

You are welcome Chery. Thanks for stopping by!

Agnes Noonan   |   14 November 2017   |   Reply

Good Reminders. I agree that many often think that only leaders at the top should be focusing on strategy. I have realized, however, that every staff member needs to be focused on strategy and i hope we will learn some new tools to encourage/promote this.