This blog marks the fourth post in my blog series on leadership learnings. I’ve written about the importance of trust, innovation, and building relationships, and as the last few months of the year come to a close and business leaders begin planning for 2022, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss best practices around strategy and planning as we head into the new year.
With an increasingly competitive technology market in the year ahead, now is the time to comb through strategies and plans with a critical eye to ensure your approach is truly a strategic and innovative one. Here are some key considerations around planning and strategies to set your organization up for success.
Avoid confusing goals with strategies
When you confuse goals with strategy, you set yourself up for failure. I’ve seen this mixup happen repeatedly over the course of my career, and it’s a mistake I’ve learned to avoid early on. Freek Vermeulen, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School, explains this excellently in a piece he wrote a few years ago on this topic. He says, “A real strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what the firm is going to do and what it’s not going to do. And many so-called strategies are in fact goals...Many strategy execution processes fail because the firm does not have something worth executing.”
When it comes down to it, a successful strategy has clear outcomes and implementation. Don’t get me wrong, having goals is an important part of the planning and strategy development process. But, you won’t get far without your goals aligning to a clear set of choices and a strategic direction.
It’s a two-way street
A successful strategy also involves two-way collaboration from your whole team, including cross-functional contributors. Many implementation efforts fall flat when business leaders focus solely on deploying a strategy from the top-down. In addition to this strategic direction from the executive team, you must empower your organization to pursue bottom-up initiatives that also align with the overall strategic goals. As a business leader it can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to own the strategic direction yourself, but it’s important to let go a bit and trust your team to do their jobs. It’s vital that you have input from all sides of the organization with shared goals to successfully implement a strategy and plan.
Don’t be afraid to change & ask hard questions
In the past I’ve talked about the importance of challenging the status quo and not limiting oneself to repeat habits or what’s worked in the past when it comes to maintaining business continuity. The same goes for strategy and planning. Business leaders cannot keep repeating the same actions and processes if they expect to drive progress and better results. This requires not being afraid to change, taking risks, and asking yourself hard questions like, “Why have we always done this this way?” or “Do we need to start over in this area to get where we want to be?” As a result, to effectively roll out new strategies business leaders must build agile teams that embrace change and can flex as their organization evolves.
I wish you all a happy planning season and hope that these tips help bring you much success in the new year.