A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall vision.
At its core, strategy is about finding where an organisation, team or individual should focus its efforts so it can overcome the biggest challenges holding it back. A strategy is about determining how you are going to ‘win’ in the period ahead.
Your strategy is a combination of the thinking required to work out the overall vision, combined with a plan on how best to achieve it. You need to have both a vision and a plan. One without the other simply doesn’t work because you need to know where you’re going in order to decide the activities that you believe will best get you there. A strategy must be flexible; for example as the environment changes, the activities you carry out to achieve your vision might need to change too. This is especially important now that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition.
Strategy can be difficult to define. It can mean different things to different people and organisations. Strategy can feel like a buzzword or jargon, which can feel confusing. There is often a misconception that if you’re not in a ‘leadership role’ strategy doesn’t apply to you. I believe that we are all leaders in our own sphere of influence, whether we lead an organisation, a team or ourselves. We all need strategies to achieve our vision.
That’s why this month over at the Lucidity Network we’re focusing on how to be brilliant at strategy. Here’s our top 3 tips;
- Don’t be intimidated by strategy jargon: Strategy can be surrounded by a lot of jargon. (For example SWOT, KPIs, PESTLE and balanced scorecard) Sometimes these are useful shorthand for a well-understood concept or analytical tool. However, sometimes people use this strategy jargon because they think it makes them sound more impressive, or to gloss over their own insecurities about their strategic thinking abilities.
Always ask for clarification. If you feel unable to ask what a phrase means, putting your question like this can be helpful: ‘Help me understand what you mean?’ or ‘How might that ensure a strategic approach to the challenge we’re facing?’ This can help you move beyond the jargon and steer the conversation towards the strategic elements of the decision at hand.
- Use the four building blocks of strategy The four building blocks of strategy are useful when you’re creating or testing a strategy.
Clarify your vision: Why does your organisation exist? What difference will it make to the world? Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time? How will people think of it/you?
Identify your accelerators and sticking points: What are your accelerators; the positives already propelling you towards achieving your vision? What are your sticking points; the things holding you back or the challenges you’re facing? This is often where the hard work is.
Figure out your general approach: What is the general way you’re going to overcome your two or three most significant sticking points? How can you use your accelerators to help? Keep it general at this stage.
Create an action plan: Plot out some activities, which will start to put your general approach into action. Don’t plan too far ahead, just far enough to check that your general approach is realistic. Each time you near the end of your action plan, revisit your general approach and plan your next set of actions.
- Make time for strategic thinking Studies have reported that 97% of business leaders feel that being strategic is the leadership behaviour that has the most beneficial impact on organisational success. However, 96% of business leaders say they don’t have enough time for strategy! Strategic thinking doesn’t just happen. You have to make time. Time is the fuel for your thinking and your personal and organisational success.
I’m delighted that Juliet Corbett, a strategy consultant helping school heads and fundraisers create robust strategies to achieve their visions faster is delivering a webinar at the Lucidity Network to share her expertise in strategic thinking.
This kind of webinar is usually exclusive to members of the Lucidity Network, but the topic of being brilliant at strategy is so important (especially right now as our strategies are changing in response to COVID-19) that we’re inviting people outside the Network to benefit.
Join Juliet at 12.30pm UK time on 28 July and learn:
- Tips to build your confidence and skills for strategic thinking
- How to use the four building blocks of strategy
- Practical ways to adapt your strategy in a fast-changing environment.
Sign up to reserve your place here. Hurry though as places are limited.
This blog is co-written with the help and expertise of Juliet Corbett. Thank you. 🙂