Strategy wins championships, planning only creates a "todo" list...

You've got a vision, you've got goals written down somewhere, and your team is all busy working on projects that they feel are top priority. They probably chose those priorities because someone told them in some meeting what the most important thing was on that given day, or in that given week. If they are lucky, sometimes they will be given problems to solve, or projects to work on that last even as long as a month. The reality is that very few organizations are any good being able to prioritize further out than 30 days.

There is a reason for this... and in my opinion it comes down to the difference between strategy, and planning. I work with businesses all the time that have a plan, probably several plans. They could be planning for growth, they could be planning to restructure, or they could be planning to launch a new product. They have great ideas and everyone is motivated... until the plan changes. Plans do change, its normal! Look at this year for example, how many people or companies had plans that changed dramatically in 2020. Probably almost everyone.

The best way to combat this is by focusing on strategy as opposed to just having a plan. Strategy in its definition is about action or policy designed to achieve major overall aim, where a plan is defined as intention or proposal. Plans will get our people moving, they will give them something to do, but strategy will give them purpose in their role, it will give them more motivation and understanding around the "why".

I worked with a company that for a very long time was great at creating strategy, they invested in it, and got people involved. This was an exciting place for people to work and they felt bought in year round to achieving the strategic items that had been decided on. They celebrated wins and refocused when they came up a little bit short. Although there were updates to the strategy throughout the year, it was always very clear what the mission was. Unfortunately over time, and as the business grew the focus on strategy shifted to dealing more with what seemed important at the time, they stopped following the long term plan in exchange for worrying about smaller things. This seemed to change the "plan" sometimes almost daily, the team felt as though they no longer had a say, or vested interest in where they were headed and people lost motivation.

Both planning and strategy have very important roles in any business. Planning to grow by "x" %, planning to hire more people, planning to expand into new markets. These are all positive things and are required to be successful. However, without strategy around HOW to grow, HOW to find the new people to hire and HOW to break into new markets, these are all just good ideas. Plans are great and even required, but without action items and policy implementation they are just good ideas.

Strategy is also a skill, it takes practice, it takes lots of discussion and in order to create winning strategy it requires an investment from an organization. It takes collaboration and sometimes it takes answering some difficult questions. It requires dedicating time and resources to what you really want to be good at, and becoming comfortable with what you are going to be bad at(this concept is for another day ;))

My point is, that winning organizations embrace strategy, they commit to it, and they share it with their people. They will always have plans, but they will also always have actions associated with those plans to ensure they move forward without getting stuck working on the daily "todo" list.

Leave some comments, or send us your thoughts!

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