Picture Hannibal Smith with a smoking cigar in his mouth, wouldn’t it feel great to say “I love it when a plan comes together,” each time a project is successfully executed?
Someone once said, “If Plan A did not work, don’t worry, the alphabet has 25 more letters.” The truth is, you have tried all 25 and yet your plan remains somewhere stored within your mental ‘cloud’ remaining nothing but ‘wishful thinking’ –Frustrating isn’t it?
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Executives and business owners like you create plans all the time. Have you ever wondered why some of your grand projects or ideas never took off?
Some plans work, most don’t. The question is ‘Why?’
Why don’t most strategic plans drive significant growth or outcomes? Perhaps it’s because HR forgot to include some ‘magic potion’ in your package? Or there is some ‘secret system’ that most people don’t know about? Maybe, some people are just ‘wired’ to outshine the rest? The answer is No!
The difference between creating a bad, average or great plan is primarily related to one thing and one thing only, and it’s not some ‘secret process’ or ‘pixie dust.’
The difference between an optimal strategic plan and a less than optimal strategic plan is related to the thinking that went into creating it.
John Maxwell once said, “I spent 80% of the time planning and only 20% of the time executing the plan.” In other words;
The quality of your thinking invested in strategic planning decides the quality of the strategic plan itself.
One of the greatest challenges we face in life is how very few people use their minds to think. If you’re the only person on the team that’s adding creativity to break out of the mould of mediocrity and complacency, it’s a sign the rest are not doing their job.
Everyone cannot be thinking and saying the same thing, it’s a sign your team is not thinking, this results in limiting potential and breakthrough.
According to Gallups, we all are uniquely ‘wired’ with 34 raw strengths. Your ‘top five’ are your ‘Signature Strengths.’ Individually or in combination, you can develop them and enjoy personal and career success. For instance, my top five signature strengths in rank order are: Relator, Achiever, Intellection, Maximiser and Belief. Knowing your natural strengths is vital to your career success. But notice, ‘Strategic’ is not in my top five.
Regardless of our unique strengths, all of us have one commodity in common, a brain. Which should be used for thinking. We are also able to harness our ability to think strategically; one way we do this is by reading books on how to think strategically.
If you don’t know how to think strategically, how can you build anything profitable?
One of the keys to creating anything highly fruitful and profitable in business is to develop a suite of strategic plans that position you and your company at every level to be competitive in your marketplace. So, how can you begin to think more strategically in order to produce a more optimal strategic plan for this coming year?
Well, here are three hints to get you started in the right direction.
I. Challenge The Status Quo Continually
If individuals didn’t challenge opinions in the past, we’d still be writing on papyruses, riding the horse and believing the earth is flat.
Some of the greatest ideas were conceived by creatively challenging the status quo.
As you look at your business, how are you and your team challenging: your market trends, your competitors’ strategies, your internal processes, your products, your services, your prospects and customers etc.?
I enjoy maintaining our small pool. It relaxes me. Occasionally the creepy gets stuck and focuses on cleaning only a particular section of the pool, while the rest of the pool’s base gathers dust. The reason for this is very fascinating. After repeating the same movement innumerable times, the creepy’s hose forms a ‘memory’. It moulds itself to a shape which prevents it from focusing on other areas.
The same thing is happening in organisations with leaders. Repeating the same tasks day after day, over and over again. This produces a ‘creativity lockdown’ when they don’t challenge how and why stuff gets done.
The more you get in the habit of creatively challenging the ‘current state of affairs’ the better you’ll be at strategic thinking.
And the better your thinking, the better your planning!
You’ve heard of ‘big-picture-thinking’. I want to suggest another concept, ‘bigger-picture-thinking’. Few people think big, even less think bigger!
The altitude of your vision determines the aptitude of your strategy.
Two mistakes business owners and entrepreneurs should steer clear from this coming 2017 and beyond:
Firstly, don’t strategise until you ‘visionise’ (I recognise that’s not good English, but you get the point).
The great temptation is to delve into strategy, without first defining and clarifying your vision. Strategy deals with – the how. Vision deals with – the what. The ‘what’ decides the ‘how.
- Unless you pitch a compelling ‘what’ you will always come up with sub-optimal strategies. So cast a bigger-than-big vision!
Secondly, A non-compelling vision is the reason for your plateau.
Many businesses hit a plateau or decline, or grow by two to three percent per annum, because of a non-compelling vision or a vision that is not well-defined (clarity enhances acceleration.)
- Is the vision clear? Do your executives and middle managers ‘see what you see and say what you say?’
- The altitude of your vision will always determine the aptitude of your strategy.
- Not thinking bigger-than-bigger will negatively impact your thinking process. Effective strategists are always looking for big gains, “How can we grow this business by 30% or 50% or 100% or 500% or more?”
They aren’t looking for small, incremental gains (which is what most business owners and entrepreneurs are looking for).
In the movie Deck the Halls, the multi-talented actor Danny De Vito plays the role of Buddy Hall. He finds himself in somewhat competition with his neighbour, so he conjures up a plan to outshine him. He decides to put up a dazzling array of Christmas lights and decoration, so bright, that his house could be seen from outer space. That’s thinking-bigger-than-big!
Unless you’re thinking of a minimum of 5% over last year’s revenues, it is not a growth accelerator; don’t bother thinking.
III. Strategy is not Tactic
The number one mistake most business owners and entrepreneurs make when they’re working on their strategic plan is confusing tactics and strategy—they’re not the same thing.
Most devastatingly, 95% of employees do not understand their company’s strategy. (How are they supposed to execute a plan if they don’t understand it?)
−Harvard Business School
Vision is (the what), strategy is (the how), but tactics are (the detailed how) – the ‘what’ of the ‘how’. Tactics are (the stepping stones) of the strategy and the coordinates of the vision. Tactics are about (how you plan to get there.)
The Tactical strategy is commonly known as the ‘Operation Plan’ which can be viewed as the shorter horizon of the strategy. It is a coordinated set of tasks for carrying out the goals outlined in a strategic plan. It is much more detailed than the strategic plan, delineating timeframes, roles of individual and board members.
In other words, if you want to think more strategically you have to ask the, ‘What question’. If you want to think tactically, you have to ask the, ‘How question’.
You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.
Question: How will you look at strategic thinking differently today? L
If you want to move pass the ceiling of your current limitations, I’ll be honoured to help move you and your team up to the next level. As your leadership architect, my training will greatly benefit your organisation. Contact me here…
Organisational potential is either capped or uncapped by the capacity of your Leadership. (Most organisations don’t have a skills problem, a knowledge problem or an experience problem, they have a leadership problem).