The very word "strategy" may, in some quarters, elicit a subtle yawn, perhaps a raised eyebrow or even an embarrassed look away. When the memo arrives that a strategy retreat is to be held next week, we immediately think that we are just too busy with very important matters of state which simply must be attended to. So sorry I cannot attend this event. All this may sound a bit familiar because in many cased we look on "strategy and strategic planning" as a time-consuming exercise that we inevitably must sign sign on to as a show of corporate unity and because we value our jobs. The latter may be our most important driver.
How many of us can confidently state our organization’s strategy? I suspect very few of us. Yet we tend to run the other way when we hear any talk of developing strategy. Strategic planning is "the ongoing organizational process of using available knowledge to document a business's intended direction. This process is used to prioritize efforts, effectively allocate resources, align shareholders and employees on the organization’s goals, and ensure those goals are backed by data and sound reasoning." (HBR Catherine Cote's "Why Is Strategic Planning Important?")
We like to think or perhaps delude ourselves into thinking that once we completed a strategic plan exercise we have excised it from our consciousness. Be gone and feel fee to bother me next year. The ugly little truth is that an organizations strategy, planning and process, requires time, effort, and continual reassessment. We must realize that a business’s strategy naturally evolves with the challenges and opportunities it encounters. So you as a decision maker must be prepared to pivot as goals shift. A business strategy must not be viewed as once written is now and forever engrained in stone. Far from it. Priorities change. Goal posts move. Situations change. Outside events are often unexpected and force us to change. It's a dynamic process.
How do we carve out time from creative strategic thinking - if not being off site for a strategic review session? We are so busy, no time for this strategic thinking as I am a very busy executive. Something as simple as a short walk can really power creative thinking, according to a Stanford University study. As Silvia Bellezza of Columbia Business School and her colleagues put it, “By telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after.” Come back when I am not busy.
three ways individual leaders can fight back and create the white space they need.
As productivity expert David Allen noted “You don’t need time to have a good idea, you need space….to buy you an extra two hours per week — more than enough to step outside the daily hurly-burly and enter into the flow state of considering big-picture strategy.
By changing the way we think about busyness — from a marker of status to a mark of servitude — it may become easier to say no to the parade of endless obligations. If we can free ourselves to think strategically and not wait for that once-a-year planning event then we will considerably better off to plan strategically, adjust and review as necessary.