Think you’re not focusing on strategy because you don’t have enough time? Maybe it’s because you’re afraid to fail. You want – or even need – guaranteed success at every step.
Being too successful can actually work against you. If you are accustomed to being invincible and have little experience with failure, you may find it difficult to contemplate the future with a truly open mind. While you’ll prefer to keep doing the “important” things you do that are familiar and that have won you accolades. You’ll be the hero to some, you won’t achieve your true potential. You won’t do what strategic action requires – fast forwarding the organization into a new, unexplored future that will keep it vital and relevant.
What can you do if you’re now sheltered and comfy in the trenches but want to be stretching yourself into strategic thinking and action?
Recognize your emotional comfort zone. Intellectually, you can tell yourself that you’re okay with risk. You might make excuses, like, It’s just this workload that keeps me from focusing on where our organization should go. The reality is that if you’re saying this year after year, there is something driving you to stay where you are. There is some competing commitment that keeps you fighting fires day after day. Could that competing commitment be a need to be seen as successful 100% of the time?
Amp up your motivation by visualizing new results. Take time to explore the results you’re getting now, with your current thinking. Then contemplate the new results you will need to achieve in order for the organization to thrive in the future. What new thinking is required to attain those results? (Hint: One part of this new thinking is, Sometimes I will fail AND I will learn from it.)
Identify how to be more strategic. Being strategic isn’t just about thinking great and expansive thoughts. When it comes right down to it, a spectacular strategy will fail if it cannot be properly executed. Therefore, strategic thinking really should be conceived of as strategic execution, where strategy informs execution and execution informs strategy. Step one of this process is to fast forward yourself into the future. What new realities face you? What new opportunities? What is your new vision of success? Step two involves looking back from your future perspective to create a plan for execution. As you implement this plan, allow lessons learned from execution to enlighten the strategies you’ve put in place.
Alan Lakein said that “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Don’t waste your opportunity to strategically execute just because you need a perfect win-loss record. The biggest win is yet to come.
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If you’re someone who develops leaders in your organization, you need to be extra careful here. We can all think of environments we’ve seen in which success was the only option. Failure was never acceptable. In that environment, people are INCENTED to behave as described above – reach, but don’t reach too far. Try but don’t try too much. While we can’t plan to fail and still be successful, we have to be careful to cultivate an evironment where we ensure failure is used as a learning opportunity, and not an opportunity for punishement. In that environment, people are free to reach higher and try harder.
Here’s a great blog on executing on strategy – a point at which many great ideas flounder.
Again good advice. Sometimes the best outcomes are achieved by thinking outside the square and not being constrained by past experience or roadblocks. Results have to be achievable, hopefully in an economic, efficient and effective manner. But the latter should not always be a constraint on strategic thinking . It is, however, a necessary discipline in finally deciding what to do.