Now that you’ve created a vision for your organization, you need to develop a strategy to help you attain that vision. “At general management’s core is strategy: defining a company’s position, making trade-offs, and forging fit among activities,” wrote Michael Porter in the 1996 Harvard Business Review. A vision says, “I’d like to get to point B” and a strategy says, “Follow this path to your destination.” To create a strategy you need to first address the following:
Step 1: Where are we now? Can you imagine giving someone directions if they couldn’t tell you where they were? It would be impossible (turn left?). The same is true of developing a strategy; you can’t do it without understanding where you are starting. Back to Business 101 again: Remember the SWOT analysis, that handy quadrant where you analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? That is precisely what you need to do. Determine how each of these plays into your vision. Does your strength in customer service differentiate you from your competitors; are their gaps in your procurement process that need filling; is there a new market you could enter? These are all questions that need to be answered in order to create the path to your destination.
Step 2: Where do we want to be? Hopefully you have a grasp on where you want to go as a result of creating your vision. A strategy allows you to outline, in detail, your goals, objectives, and means for achieving those. While a vision may focus more on aspirations, goals focus on measurable outcomes. Your goals should be:
- Quantifiable: By how much do you expect to grow? How many new clients do you want to take on? By what date you expect to achieve the goal? How much will it cost to implement?
- Achievable: Is it realistic? Is it within the realm of possibility without capsizing your organization or alienating your employees or clients?
- Owned: Who is responsible for this goal’s success? Who is impacted by this goal?
Your goals may be to fill gaps you realized as a result of your SWOT analysis. They may highlight your key differentiators and strengths or address competitive threats. Think of goals as the stepping-stones on your path to achieving your vision.
Reminder: Strategy is all about balancing risk & reward. Changing requires taking on risk, but it is impossible to grow as an organization (or an individual for that matter) without taking some calculated risks. Great leaders accept risk and do their best to manage it. Developing a strategy is about making choices, often with trade-offs, as Porter noted. You simply can’t do everything all the time, but great leaders and great strategies don’t try to.
A vision without strategy is just an idea, a hope with no means for actualization. By understanding where you are now and where you hope to go, you can create a plan to achieve your vision. Next week, we will discuss communicating your vision and strategy in a way that inspires action and cultivates change.