Tag Archives: Strategic planning

Strategy that sticks

making strategy simpleHow do you talk about your business’s strategy so that your employees get it?

Any strategic planning session eventually needs to deliver a robust strategy, one that anyone can understand and execute. The truth is this rarely happens, as most strategic plans end up in a binder somewhere, and confuse more than enlighten people.

What business leaders want to avoid at all costs is confusion, which leads to inaction. So, how do we solve this challenge?

True innovators don’t have a culture that aims to please the boss

for innovation safe is riskyHow many strategic plans look a little bit different from the year before? 99.9% do.

When I say “a little bit different” I mean tighter strategies with incremental goals and objectives and more of the same activities as the year before. Yes, we’ve all seen this before. What’s ridiculous is that you may begin a strategy session thinking differently, but most everyone defaults to safe because “that’s not what the boss expects” when the time comes to decide on a course of action; a lot of good ideas are not considered because of this.

This situation presents itself in most businesses, but the ones who are able to leap ahead have one thing in common: they are ruled by ideas, not hierarchy.

It isn’t business-as-usual to be ruled by ideas

Over the last few months of 2014 I was involved in facilitating a strategic plan for a government created mechanism in charge of coordinating entrepreneurial activities in the city of Tijuana. They brought me in because they wanted to shake things up!

There were many challenges, but the main thing was to be more ambitious. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to say “let’s rethink our approach” and another to actually go forward with it. Well, that’s exactly what happened after the strategy sessions.

The ideas that were presented in the strategic plan were cookie-cutter versions of what happens in other entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world, in this case they are localized to Tijuana. The sad thing about it is that the people in charge of this government mechanism, the boss, vetted all of the ideas; even though they were the same as the year before.

Why did this happen?

Because the group of people that came up with the strategic plan wanted to shake things up, but only just a little bit. The result was almost the same set of activities as the year before, with incremental goals and objectives.

Not the recipe for shaking things up…

The best idea wins

In innovative organizations, there is a unique understanding that to shake things up one has to STOP doing what leads to more of the same and START doing what will lead to new and different. So, if the decision making process in your business is to go through a suit (business as usual) that values safe bets that lead to more of the same; now you know what will counter that: letting the best idea win.

How do you do that?

Easy, ask yourself some business shaking questions:

  • If we make a list of all the projects we are working on, do any of those have the potential to change our business significantly over the next year?
  • What’s the boldest idea we should work on?

Best and bold are subjective terms, so it is best to first develop a criteria for what you want. The criteria I use to describe innovativeness is: new, surprising and radically useful. Secondly, come up with some ideas that fit the criteria you defined. And finally, define a timeframe to see some prototypes and let people try stuff and don’t judge them if their idea fails.

Employee freedom and responsibility go together

The main point is people need freedom, support and challenge to make innovation happen; not to think twice about expressing themselves freely because they fear getting punished. Put simply, if you are afraid to say what you really think in a meeting, you are not free. You are a corporate slave.

True innovators do away with corporate slavery. True innovators trust people to do the right thing, and that starts with defining culture and then hiring for specific values and behaviors. Hiring is hard, it’s the most important job for any business, and there isn’t a cookie-cutter recipe to follow, but if you focus on hiring for brilliance you can be certain that the best ideas will win; not the loudest voice in the room.

Bottom line: A culture that values playing it safe, is a culture that stagnates. A culture that thrives is one where people and ideas that challenge the status quo are valued.

What is strategy? Part deux

what is strategy

“Anyone can plan a campaign, but few are capable of waging war, because only a true military genius can handle the developments and circumstances.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

There’s was a last week, and I thought I put some more thought into it and clarify my point of view that strategy does require planning, but only to prepare your mind.

? I’ve talked about this before and defined strategy as:

The essence of strategy is not to carry out a brilliant plan that proceeds in steps; it is to put yourself in situations where you have more options than everyone else. Instead of going for A as the single right answer, true strategy is positioning yourself to be able to do A, B or C depending on the situation.

What is strategy?


So many definitions, so much complexity. Nobody really knows what strategy really is.

So, what is strategy?

To me strategy is not pursuing a detailed plan step by step, it is finding or creating options that give me an advantage at any moment.

Let me explain why:

The world is full of people looking for a secret formula to success and power. They don’t want to think on their own; they just want the recipe to follow. For this very reason they are attracted to the idea of strategy.

In their minds strategy is a series of steps to be followed toward a goal. They want these steps spelled out for them by some expert or guru. Believing in the power of imitation, they want to know what others have done before. Their maneuvers in life are as mechanical as their thinking. They are predictable.

The essence of strategy is not to carry out a brilliant plan that proceeds in steps; it is to put yourself in situations where you have more options than everyone else. Instead of going for A as the single right answer, true strategy is positioning yourself to be able to do A, B or C depending on the situation.

Our society values people who have the right answer but in reality there is no single right answer, there are many. At any moment one approach can be better than the other, being aware of this is what separates true strategists from the one’s following a game plan.

Do you agree? What’s your definition of strategy? This is an important topic, let’s get a discussion going!

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