Strategies change. Strategy changes when organisations change…when organisation leadership changes…when the environment that an organisation works in changes. Strategy changes when opportunity changes. And opportunity can change for the same organisational, leadership or environmental reasons.
This makes sense. Strategy can be driven by a powerful combination of reacting to, and getting ahead of, events. And our strategy is – or should be – what we do. By definition: our strategy should dictate what we do…as opposed to what we are doing dictating our strategy.
But what is a strategy? And why is it so important in an organisation? I found myself thinking about this last week as I was going through a round of mid-year reviews.
Whenever I have a number of similar meetings at the same time, I often find myself with a theme – ideas, questions, suggestions, observations – that come up multiple times during the week. Normally I am the only one who knows sine I am the one who has multiple conversations…everyone else just has the one…
My simplest answer then to a definition of strategy is…how we get to where we want to be.
Sounds obvious…and definitely sounds simple. I guess that’s why I like it. And of course as a definition, this one also implies what else we need as well as a strategy. We need a description of where we want to be. We need a picture of where we want to be…and we need details of how we will know we are there, and how we will measure our progress (our way forward is seldom instantaneous).
All of which helped me as I was thinking about my mid-year reviews last week. Most organisations have a compelling vision and will have an agreed strategy. Our role as leaders, teams and individuals is to ensure that what we are doing is aligned to help maximise contribution, progress and delivery to that organisational vision and strategy.
It helped me as well in thinking why strategies can change when organisations or opportunity changes. There would be little value in a company continuing to produce movie videotapes, if everyone is using DVDs or downloads. The vision and objectives could still be the same – to provide ultimate choice and quality in home entertainment – but how that company made progress would have to change.
When Microsoft bought Skype they immediately set about integrating Skype into every device and platform they could think of…whilst removing anything similar from their existing portfolio. Microsoft and Skype saw a potential emerging opportunity and changed their strategy to seize and to develop.
I have been in situations where I cannot see or understand the vision – that feels confusing and leads to questions as I seek to comprehend and to clarify. Similarly I have been in situations without an agreed and aligned strategy…which can lead to false starts as I set off on the wrong path.
And when I find myself in situations where we have a vision…appropriate measure of success…and we have a strategy…along with necessary skills, incentives and resource…it is both a powerful and empowering place to be. It does not mean progress is always easy…but it does feel engaging and exciting and creates an engaging and exciting place to be.
Vision and strategy can often sound like leadership jargon – for example I don’t tend to ask my wife about the vision and strategy for our summer vacation. But in an organisation – any organisation – clarity and alignment over vision, strategy and measures of success are essential…and it really is worth the effort.
Most of us like to feel empowered. We all want to be engaged and excited by what we do.