End of the Year Reflections - Strategy
With a new year approaching, I’ve found myself thinking quite a bit about strategic planning at its foundation. As a leader of a small, growing organization, I’ve spent several months re-thinking our process and approach. I’ve talked to people, read a little, and reflected on my experiences at work or with the various organizations I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. Below are some stray musings as I try to put it all together.
1. Be Inclusive
A top-down approach to strategy is foolish. Imagine that you’re in charge of planning the annual company outing. Would you plan an event without including people of various social circles at your office or asking colleagues about their experiences at past outings? Maybe you would, but I guarantee not everyone will be happy at the Ethiopian-Caribbean fusion restaurant followed by karaoke at an underground Koreatown bar that you enter through a secret door in a bakery. (Although it sounds kind of awesome)
Diversity of opinions rules. Involve all of the stakeholders. Period. Various perspectives lead to better ideas. Moreover, leaders can’t possibly know about the day-to-day work of frontline staff. Not only do you need the perspective of the “ground troops” in an organization, but inclusion creates a level of buy-in you would never otherwise achieve. People are committed to the work they’ve done. Everyone benefits when all levels are involved.
2. Have Structure
Being inclusive can easily land you in “too many cooks” territory. The way to fix this is to provide a structure. Know what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. Decide what feedback looks like, who has final say, and most importantly set deadlines.
When planning strategically, your committee can think, review, and modify ideas and priorities forever. Structure and deadlines will force you to make decisions and keep you on task. Trust me.
3. Be Willing, but Not Quick to Change
One thing that holds group back is an attachment to “the way we’ve always done things.” Imagine sticking to a dial up modem because that’s how you’ve always connected to the internet. Times change; environments change; strategies and operations must change.
When considering change, also be honest with yourself about your organization’s strengths and limitations. Is your perceived strength still a strength? What opportunities present themselves and are you honestly in a position to capitalize on them? Be inclusive of frontline staff and really consider your capacity. Your assumptions and reality are often disparate.