Stop the insanity…

We’ve all heard the definition of insanity… “doing the same thing repetitively and expecting different results”. And yet in how many areas of our business, and personal lives do we fail to heed this wisdom?

When people feel stressed, they often want to move to finding a solution that is going to alleviate that tension. You’ve got some new targets. So, how can you do more of what you do, in order to hit those targets??!!

Before you go down that road, let’s talk about opportunities and limitations. I’ll guarantee you right now, 2 things:

1) There are opportunities around you that you haven’t identified yet
2) There are limitations that you think are real, but they aren’t

It’s a common tendency in middle management (and sometimes upper too) to bypass strategic thinking and jump into tactics and action planning. It feels like the fastest way to create more positive results. The problem with starting/staying with tactical thinking, without considering the strategy, is that you’re going to end up mostly doing the same things you have done before. There’s no path to change the game.

Consider the two points above. We all have flawed beliefs about what is possible. We set limitations, and manage to them. We sometimes recycle old information that was once true, but may no longer be.

I’ll make the following recommendations:

1) Drink in the fact that some of your beliefs are flawed. This will keep you on your toes about paying attention to new information.
2) Cyclically challenge the underlying assumptions behind your plans, and your beliefs about what is possible. Involve other smart people, not all of who share your views.

“We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.”
-François de La Rochefoucauld

10 questions your executive should take seriously

You have a shiny new strategy. Congrats. Here are some questions to determine whether you’ve really thought it through. Selecting a strategy is exciting, but it requires due diligence or it can spell trouble for your organization. Questions like these may help move you from strategically “running with scissors” to being ready “to boldly go”. Best of luck.

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1.How will our strategies position us to beat the market?
– In what ways does it increase our dominance?
– What does “beating the market” mean, specifically, within the context of our business?

2.Are we leveraging any unique source of advantage, or allowing ourselves to compete on an open field with everyone else?
– In what ways are we tapping this?
– How can we increase this advantage?

3.Is our strategy granular and specific enough that it’s clear about where we’re going to compete in terms of market space?
– Can you describe the highest level strategy a hundred different ways, or do people tend to rattle of pre-scripted phrases?

4.How are we positioning ourselves ahead of trends, and which ones specifically?

5.Does our strategy rely on unique insight or commonly available information?
– Do we know something that is enabling us to gain advantage or are we working with the same information everyone else has?

6.Does the strategy balance commitment and flexibility? Commitment and flexibility are inversely proportional.
– Have we boldly selected a strategy / desired market position that isn’t generic to every possible future scenario?
– Have we committed to an extent that it’s clear to internal stakeholders what we’re doing?

7.Do we allow historically negative events to categorically limit our future stratagems?
– Are there options that get shot down without real consideration because of past events?
– Have we tested the current validity of the fundamental assumptions behind our strategy?
– Do we know what assumptions our choices are predicated upon?

8.Do we have a team that has demonstrated the ability to mobilize on and enact change consistently?

9.Is our highest level strategy translated down to a concrete action plan?

10.Is someone senior appropriately accountable for everything we refer to as a strategy?

Decision tree: Strategic Issue Resolution

How does your organization manage the resolution of strategic issues? Chances are, they pop up in executive strategy review sessions, as they should. Alternatively, you may also have meetings set aside to specifically address these emerging issues.

One of the challenges many organizations face is how to turn those discussions into defined action, how to consistently leave the room with firm decisions. I would suggest that while your emerging risks may be extremely complex, the initial decision making process doesn’t have to be. There are 3 things you need to leave the room with:

1) Obviously… The list of the issues/risks on your radar
2) A decision about which ones are real/operational in nature, and which ones are perceptual (don’t assume your customers are wrong often)
3) Accountability for the resolution

Here’s a decision tree you can use in your meetings:

Depending on your culture, and who is in the room with you, you may find that a framework like this simplifies decision making.

A issues: We know we’re prepared to resolve, who is going to do it
B issues: We aren’t prepared to act, hence we need to manage the issue differently
C issues: We have a percpetual issue, this is managed by a different group of people

For easier viewing: Right-click and copy the image, then drop it a word file. It’s fairly high res.