In part 1, I shared the 8 things that are top of mind when I think of leadership values. In Part 2, I want to share 8 things I believe – strategy values or beliefs. The intent of this series is to share some of the central thoughts that drive my own internal thought process. It’s not complete, by any means. For example, one of my leadership values is patience and listening. I didn’t include that in the original Part 1 of the series on leadership. I think some things are basic, and if you are a leader, you know these more basic values, and how to apply them in practice.
For me, strategy also should not be mysterious, like it seems to have become. So, let’s define strategy to remove the mystery and ambiguity around this word that is used so colloquially. My definition follows:
Simply put, strategy is a set of steps, methods and an approach, to achieve a goal. Once set, it pivots as progress forces discovery and new information surfaces that can improve the original strategy.
Good leaders know to watch economic drivers, market shifts and customer trends in order to prepare for a strategy pivot. Strategy pivots in a number of ways, including redirect, add steps, change methods, remove steps or adjust the approach. One applies these strategy pivots often to ensure the goal remains relevant.
8 Things I Believe – Strategy Values (Beliefs)
Take initiative and develop strategy. It does not come from the top – it comes from teams, staff members, managers, administrators, all the way to the least likely people in the organization. People know the steps required to achieve the goals and, most importantly, when the indicators show it’s time to pivot. People in your company have the vision and presence to make the observations necessary to build strong strategy. Strategy built from within, is owned by the organization, and more likely to work.
Assume no strategy is perfect. Strategy is a pervasive and persistent journey, not a destination. There is no room for complacency, and once set, the strategy must be revisited, on a schedule. Good leaders, managers and team members are all empowered to ask: “what if ‘this’ happened tomorrow?” what would we do? Spending 5 minutes a day preparing for potential pivot events makes the pivot less disruptive and painful when it does happen.
Question strategy often and constructively.Wherever you are in the organization, be the first to recognize an opportunity to question strategy and find ways to make it better. Be critical, but be constructive. If you are on the team, you have a goal to achieve. To be less than constructive, you are not working toward the goal. Be open and listen to other’s questions and concerns – it may be the pivot that you and the team need to succeed and achieve the goal.
Know the difference between strategy and luck.Luck has its place from time to time – especially when you don’t have all the information you wish you had, to make a decision. We’ve all encountered that one guy that everything he touches works and turns to success. Know that approach is not sustainable, and will eventually catch up and end. All winning streaks do end.
Build a reputation for being strategic.It’s easy to be recognized for activity, getting tasks done, and other activity-based results. Be cautious that you don’t spend time doing the wrong activities that are not strategic and aligned with the goal. You will not be measured by completing all projects and activities. You will be measured and remembered by achieving the goal. Ensure you are strategic and focused on the goal.
Think innovation when thinking strategy.All too often, strategies are built around “the way we always do things”…, instead of “to achieve greatness, how can we do more, with less, in less time?” One of the best reasons to pivot strategy is when an opportunity to innovate surfaces. To develop the best strategy and constantly tune it, regularly spend time applying “what if” constraints on the strategy and drive innovative solutions at every step. Great strategies inspire additional innovation.
Share your strategy with your customers, market and industry.Keep your stakeholder ecosystem involved. Share the changes as they come – but base strategy pivots on unchanging beliefs – and your company’s core vision. Share strategy and evangelize it. Get the collective DNA from others talking about it and refining it with you. Forcing a strategy on people without their input doesn’t work either. Nor is that a sustainable approach. The reputation you create can be permanent.
Focus on customers, not competitors. Your strategy is unique to your organization and culture, and therefore hard to copy. The best competitors can do is react to it. That’s good for you, extends your market leadership and makes it easy to differentiate against. Boldly driving your strategy (executing the steps it lays out) extends the gap between you and your competitors who have no better strategy than to chase you.
Strategy comes from within. In many organizations, management and staff wait to be told what the strategy is from executive management.
I used to work for Carol Bartz, then CEO of Autodesk. This was back when people were leaving good paying jobs to go do a start-up in Silicon Valley in the late 90’s. I stayed, and was rewarded with more responsibility and leadership opportunity. My first one on one discussion with Carol was around strategy for the next flagship product that the company needed to satisfy customers in a lower tier market. Lots of reasons were given why it wouldn’t work, but instead a strategy (clear series of steps) on how to define the product, go to market, and build a channel, resulted in a multi-hundred-million-dollar a year product, AutoCAD LT.
I recall the abrupt clarity that was shared by my strong CEO around who was leading who. And yes, I was the one to lead strategy, not the CEO. This was one of the strongest lessons I learned in those days. Images of that meeting are clear in my mind.
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