Too busy reacting to take time to think strategically…
Published on October 20, 2020
5 min read.
In a world where it seems everything can change in an instant, what is the point in taking precious time to sit down and think about what might be in 5 years? Well according to Strategy& (part of PWC), companies that have thought about where they are going in the future are three times more likely to achieve above-average growth and twice as likely to report above-average profits. Would you like to improve your company's chances?
If the thought of taking time to plan where you want your business to be in the future sounds either like a waste of time, too time-consuming, or irrelevant in a modern world – consider this, how do you know that all the effort you are putting into moving forward is taking you in the direction you want to go?
Having a strategic vision for your business and making sure everyone (you, your staff, suppliers, and clients) know your vision will improve the effectiveness of your Leadership and the overall engagement across everything you do
Image a post-war America, a new era is beginning where the USA is rich with natural resources, has a huge population, and is not struggling to rebuild its infrastructure after the devastation of conflict.
At the same time in Japan, a country ravaged by war, much smaller than the USA and with fewer resources, was able to outpace production levels and quality levels on seemingly everything they manufactured.
To match their success, America was keen to learn all it could from the Japanese production systems and so, academics and industrialist began the quest of understanding. One such academic was the systems thinker W. Edwards Deming.
These studies are discussed in detail in other articles, and there is much to be learned from the likes of Deming that is as relevant today as it was then.
Three big differences that helped explained why Japanese companies were able to outperform their competitors:
- Everyone in a company understood where the company was heading.
- Everyone was clear about how they contribute to the vision.
- The role of the leader was to remove barriers that prevented individuals from delivering on the vision.
Back in the 1950s, I’m sure it felt like the future was full of endless possibilities. The old ways of thinking we’re being replaced by an optimistic view of tomorrow. All these decades later, the unprecedented rate of change brought about by the digital revolution makes us look back fondly at the slower pace of life then.
Rather than diminishing the need for improved thinking and leadership styles, the current necessity for rapid decision making in an interconnected, complex environment means leaders more than ever need a method to truly aligning their decisions, their actions, and the actions of everyone else to ensure their company continues to move in the right direction.
The external motivators like job title, company perks, or a corner office have given way to a workforce that is looking for meaning and connection with the company they work for.
The development of this emotional engagement starts with a well-articulated vision}
As very eloquently explained by Simon Sinek
, the place to start when looking at your strategic vision is “Why?”
The purpose of your company should be to satisfy a need or problem your customer has. Your companies product or service should make the world a better place for your customers.
Work with as many people as you can across your company to consider your “Why” and to condense this down into a pure gold nugget of central reason your company exists.
This emotional gem becomes your Vision.
When your ideal customer (or your ideal employee for that matter) hears your vision statement it should develop into a growing desire, a need to be part of your movement.
Good health can’t wait
To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy
To create a better everyday life for the many people
Successful vision statements come in all shapes and sizes but the purpose of writing it down should not be lost.
It is there to constantly remind you, your leaders, and your teams why the company is in business.
It should be bold and aspirational, connecting with a bigger purpose.
Your vision becomes the guiding light, your true north of where you are heading as a company. And from that articulately defined future vision, the other aspects of your strategic road map are used to build detail layer by layer.
I find the best analogy for explaining how a strategic road map should work is to use a SatNav system in a car.
As a company, there are many reports and official returns to show the current state of the business. This is the same as your current location.
As you move away from your current location, the directions are very specific “Turn Left”, “Take the second Right” – In your strategic roadmap this is equivalent to the Tactics you plan on delivering. These will typically be completed in the short-term (1-2 years), they will have clearly defined deliverables and will a high degree of certainty around them.
As you look further ahead from your current location, the directions become less clear “Follow the signs for downtown”, “head towards London” – In your strategic roadmap this is equivalent to the Strategies. These will typically focus on the midterm (2-3 years), They will be less well defined about how you plan to achieve them but give a clear indication of the focus areas you expect to work on.
Looking further ahead, the directions are now merely directional “Head south” – in roadmap terms this is equivalent to the Mission Statement. This is where you are focusing on the longer-term (3-5+ years), the level of detail here can be abstract and is generally intended to set the direction of travel whilst indicating how the overall vision may be achieved.
And completing the roadmap is the Future Vision you have defined. This is the destination you are planning to get to. As I said this is future-focused (5-10+ years) and is more aspirational than an expectation.
The approach I have outlined is typically referred to as a VMOST. There is an entire methodology around developing and maintaining a vMOST and using it to cascade a vision and align actions across an organisation.
The secrete to consistent success was, and still is “knowing where you are heading!”
As the speed for decision-making and the complexity of operating world both increase, the need for a laser focus on where you are heading is essential to you as a leader.
Trying to stay ahead by reacting to the business environment is no longer sustainable – writing down where you are going and how you expect to get there significantly increases your chances of getting there and the likely hood of achieving above-average profit and growth
Do your team cleary understand your vision?
Don’t get lost in the ambiguous details, but do have a plan …