STRATEGY – Victory or Defeat?

In the world of martial-arts you must strategize. It’s not an option. You are constantly thinking of ways to protect yourself as different scenarios arise.

The word strategy means, “a plan of action or policy/designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” From childhood I was always told, “you need to have a plan!” Having a plan is important, but communicating and executing the plan is the key. I have found myself at various times in my career, working in environments where there is no clear strategy, no defined roles and responsibilities, no clear expectations clearly communicated, and lack of accountability. However, I was still expected to drive change and execute on initiatives. What I could not understand in those environments were:

  1. Was I making a difference?
  2. Should I be focused on the work at hand?
  3. How does the work align with the company strategy? 
  4. Why would no one define these items clearly?

Last month we talked about “Value Add”. It’s really hard to feel you are ADDING VALUE, or ARE VALUED, in this type of environment. I recall the quote by Antoine de Saint-Expéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” As well as the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  I am never surprised to find failed initiatives, and burned out individuals, in organizations that do not clearly articulate their strategy and ensure the work being done aligns with their strategic goals. I am by no means saying building a strategy is easy, but if you don’t, you will have to endure the pain of failed initiatives and loss of potential profits. I have found even when a strategy is created, the communication of the strategy throughout the organization can be very weak. There have been organizations I have been a part of that have created strategies that fit into one of four categories:

  1. Too general to really understand the vision and plan
  2. Too complicated to understand where you fit in the strategy
  3. Hidden so you didn’t know it existed, but maybe kept hearing it existed
  4. Very well defined, and communicated, everyone could grab onto the goals and plan (this one, unfortunately, has been rare in my career).

I have also been afforded the opportunity to create strategies in my career for many different initiatives. This is what I have found to be effective in creating, and executing the strategy.  You must:

  • Understand the current state of the organization.
  • Understand where you want the organization to go in the future.
  • Define your mission and vision statements (if not already created and you are enhancing your strategy to align with these statements).
  • Define your strategic objectives/goals.
  • Define your plan of execution (these are your tactics).
  • Communicate your plan throughout ALL levels of the organization, and ensure your leaders understand and support the strategy. This includes holding individuals accountable.
  • Define success metrics and monitor the performance of those success metrics.

The key to strategy execution is to ensure it is communicated, accepted and supported by the executive team, as well as individuals are held accountable. You can write a strategy all day long, but if it’s not effectively supported and executed, all you have are words.

So how can we as business analysts, leaders and entrepreneurs ensure we help in the execution of the strategy to achieve business objectives and goals? So glad you asked.  My next article will discuss just that. 

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