If I had to sum up my approach to strategy development in a word I’d say – practical.
We’ve all seen those magnificent strategies that have taken weeks, sometimes months, to put together. They are truly impressive in size and detail. But – essentially useless because they never get looked at again.
In my opinion, it’s better to have a strategy mapped out on a napkin now, than it is to wait for a bible in 3 months time.
So – here’s how I tackle it.
First Things First – The Right Attitude
There are things that I just know about having a strategy – and before I set out to write one, I just remind myself about them
- I believe it is an essential piece of information.
- I know that I will be able to operate better if I have one.
- I accept that it doesn’t have to be perfect (I work really hard on believing this one).
- I know that as I start off on my journey towards realising the goals in my strategy, it may (will) change. That’s OK – if I have it written down, I can adjust and keep moving.
Set Your Sights
Writing a strategy is an important, but very rarely urgent task. The temptation is to put it off until you have enough time (when it’s quieter and there aren’t any urgent things that need doing) to sit and really focus on it. The reality is that there is never a time where there isn’t something more urgent that needs to be done.
So that’s my first tip: make your strategy urgent. Decide you need one in two weeks – one week for the researching, one week for the writing. Set the deadline, block it out in you calendar, get it done.
I’ll pop one little caveat in here – if you are in a situation where you need to consult with stakeholders for their input into your approach, this approach won’t work exactly as outlined. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Borrow a Framework
A framework (or model) is the outline of the key areas you need to cover. Often they’re nicely laid out so that you can see everything in a snapshot. You need one – it will focus your thinking while you research.
There are so many smart people out there – and the internet puts them right at your fingertips. Someone, somewhere will have come up with a framework that’s perfect for your situation – borrow it.
Here’s some I’ve found:
Research & Thinking
Now that you have a set timeframe – go back and read points 3 and 4 above. You only have a week for research, so make it count. Work out what things are the most important and tackle them first.
Here’s a hit list of the most essential things you need to know.
- How do I want to grow my business?
- How well are we doing that now?
- What are my goals? How will I know if I reach them? Your measurements.
- How can I reach those goals? These are your strategies.
- What tactics are needed to drive each strategy?
Write It Up
Transfer your thinking into the model you’ve borrowed. Spend time working on the phrasing to make sure that you are distilling all the thinking you’ve done succinctly. You’ve allowed yourself a week, take the time.
My favourite bit – set up some meetings with whoever is important to you and walk them through your new strategy. Be open and listen to their questions – you may need to adjust your thinking.
Print It Out – Take It Everywhere
My last tip – use your strategy. It’s a map of how to get to where you want to be – remind yourself (and others) of that every chance you get. I’ve found the best strategies are creased, coffee stained and scribbled on – they have a life. People are constantly using them as a decision compass because they do their job and keep you on the path.