There should be no mystery to strategy. Afterall, it is simply the plan to get from A to B. And yet, many organisations don’t have a strategy (much less implement one) for getting their business to where they want it to be. The result being, they are going nowhere.
Strategy is a key solution we offer to our clients and something that we prioritise in our own business. At The Project Lab, strategy is imbedded in our culture, and we invest time and energy into ensuring for every goal or vision we have, there is a strategy that supports it.
Having worked with companies, big and small, across a number of sectors over the last 10 years, we have learnt there are some common reasons why organisations don’t have a strategy. Don’t let these reasons hold you back from creating the strategy you need to succeed in your goals.
Almost always, a company will know their purpose. They have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and come to work. If you ask a person what they do for a living or what the organisation they work for does, they will be able to give you a clear answer: I work for a construction company, we mostly work on commercial buildings; I am an emergency doctor, I work at the hospital where sick or injured people go to get better; I am a barista, I make people happy.
They may also be able to talk about their vision or goals: I want our sustainable hair products to be the preferred choice of hairdressers in Tasmania; We want to reduce domestic violence against women and children; We want 10,000 people to come to our event in September.
You might then ask them, how they are going to achieve their goal, what are the resources they will need to ensure success, give a list of risks and how they will mitigate them, outline a budget, identify personnel they may need to hire, show market analysis to support that their goal is possible. If they can’t give answers, then they haven’t understood the assignment.
A strategy requires you to answer the questions and make the choices that will put your company on the path of achieving its purpose and goals. It asks you to look ahead and choose the way you want to go. It’s not enough to be good at what you do and passionate about your purpose, you need a qualified, creative and rigorous plan to get you there.
Strategy answers the question of how.
This is a classic reason for not wanting to spend time on a strategy. They have got this far without one and they’re successful enough. Our reply would be, but could you be more successful? And even a step back from that, how can you be sure you are succeeding if you haven’t got a strategy?
A strategy paints the picture of what success is, but this is not painting by numbers. It shouldn’t just be a number at the end of a spreadsheet. Success also should include wellbeing of employees, sector influence, customer experience, market share, brand strength. Then you have a fuller set of metrics on which to measure it.
Equally, if success is not just one thing, then it should not be decided by only one person. We encourage leaders to involve all levels of the organisation in developing a strategy. Even consult your suppliers and customers. This gives ownership to the people who need to be engaged with the goal and clarity on what their part is in succeeding.
Strategy defines success for everyone in the organisation.
Plans fail. We have all had things not work out the way we planned, in our personal and professional lives. If you spend less than a minute scrolling through reels on social media you are likely to come across a muddy dog flattening its owner, a bride’s heel breaking as she walks down the aisle or a skateboarder landing on a handrail, without his board. Ouch.
If your strategy doesn’t work the way you expected to, that’s not failure. In fact, echoing the sentiment of Winston Churchill, failing to plan is planning to fail. Wise words earned by a man who was familiar with failed plans. His point being, you are far more likely to fail if you don’t have a plan at all. With a strategy, you increase your odds of success.
You create a strategy with the knowledge and foresight you have at the time. It’s based on facts and experience, but it’s also based on variables and forces you have no control over. If this is about painting a picture, then strategy is as much about creativity as it is about data. Allow yourself to put your dreams and your ‘what ifs’ into your strategy, because then you open up the possibility of more than you had imagined.
When we work on a strategy, we leave room for change, we might even outline the ways it could fail and suggest alternative approaches should the need arise. We give permission for failure, as we know that will bring valuable learnings and help us to refine the strategy for better results down the line.
Be courageous and make a plan!
A strategy is not a legal document. You are not locked into every sentence you wrote, and you are allowed to adapt it if you identify ways it can serve your organisation better.
Yes, it is a significant part of your organisation’s ability to achieve the big goals you have committed to. It should be considered and informed. It should include research, data, experienced thought and analysis. Investing time and resources into your strategy is important. But it doesn’t own you. Remember, strategy is as much an art as it is a science, so allow for the unexpected.
A strategy is a tool to be used, moulded and changed to get your organisation to where it wants to be. You create it, you can change it. A good strategy should get you to where you want to be without needing to change lanes entirely, but if you want to add some speed bumps or street lighting along the way, then you are free to do that.
A strategy empowers you to pave the way to success.
If you don’t have a strategy or do but it’s not working for you, we’d love to talk to you and find out how we can help. At The Project Lab, we invest time and resources into strategy so we can achieve our purpose of helping make Tasmania the most liveable island in the world. By helping you be the best you can be, we are achieving that goal.