For strategy, Dr. Seuss said it best…. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose...”
When I first started working in strategic planning, this became my favorite quote. Meetings were a sea of vague but lofty strategic terms. Discussions focused on visionaries who could see and define a future the rest of us could not. I cringed at critical assessments such as “she can’t think strategically” or “he doesn’t have vision”. I was frustrated by the conflict between this elite view of strategy and my values that each individual has insights to contribute to future planning. I see this collaboration as the very essence of a leadership planning model.
My work is energized by a much simpler and more basic view of what is important for effective strategy…an engaged team that understands and contributes to a common future vision. In one of my favorite books, Being Strategic, Erica Anderson has a quote “Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future”. This simple definition in a complex world of business, knits operations and strategy into cohesive future direction. If you can create actionable strategy that your whole team understands, you create communication to power your organization.
So how do you actually build effective strategy? Like any team effort, diverse thinking builds a better product. Committing the time and effort for the process is critical and well worth the investment. Invest your time for strategy in the following ways
- Solicit input from a broad group of constituents – include time for surveys, brainstorming, and research to fuel creative thinking.
- Revisit and refine your Mission – The mission statement can provide a bright light for your planning, so take the time to work with it.
- Actively listen to your clients – Remember why you exist and who you are serving. Don’t rely on dated input and information. Bring in new opinions.
- Define 3-5 high level goals, themes, or objectives for dynamic progress – Be sure to take the time to synthesize to this manageable number. This focus is critical for action.
- Define process checkpoints to discuss and measure progress. A great strategic plan that is left on the shelf is meaningless. Inclusive strategy needs to be reviewed regularly to stay on course.
The business world of today is powered by diverse teams. Success is driven by passion, commitment, and a plan. Strategy is the plan to energize and empower the people in your organization “in any direction you choose”. Hats off to Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel for saying it best. Use your strategy to “steer you in any direction you choose”.