This is about how to get it wrong!
4 simple ideas to keep in mind….
Not taking time to think things through
When I ask people how I should best get ready for an IronMan, they always reply “Train”. But in my working schedule, I don’t have time and if I DID train, it would surely lead to divorce and that would make every even harder (for the IronMan) …as well as decidely less nice.
I know training is not the answer here because I’ve done my SWOT and I have been thinking about my position. I am tackling first-things-first (liberating time by improving business …. THEN training)
Stubbornly sticking to the plan or just never reassessing your position
Strategic thinking is not something that happens once a year. By definition, it is about linking your current position to a mission. Since your current position is ever-changing, this means that strategic thinking and action must be a dynamic process, rather than just setting a bunch of rules to apply in any situation in the coming 1,2,3 years.
Not thinking things through before acting
I see a lot of great promises made in training rooms by people about how they are going to tackle leadership and teamwork situations. On paper it looks really good.
Then I give them a task to work on. As soon as I do, everyone forgets what they said about “taking the time to assess position” and “assigning roles based on competences” and “creatively looking for new resources”. They just start doing stuff. One of the biggest tips for strategic action I can think of simply to SLOW DOWN.
Not seeing and seizing opportunities when they are there
One of the by-products of not slowing down is that you don’t tend to see things for what they are. The more quickly we treat our situation-assessment, the more likely we are to just filter all the new information through our existing ego-filters and come to the same conclusions as usual. To be really strategic, its important to look at things from different angles and be open-minded. In this way, we are likely to see a lot more opportunities.
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This blog post has been written as support for homework for participants from my training on “Creating Influence”.
…but the exercise described below is an excellent approach to defining strategic action for any mission you may undertake.
First, let’s describe “strategic action”
How is strategic action different to normal action? It considers one’s current position in close relationship to the mission. In this way, strategic action is focussed on high level priority-driven steps that are more likely to get us to where we want to be.
Example: Suppose I want to complete an IronMan race. I might be inclined to imagine that swim-training is the best action to undertake. But if I first do a good strategic positioning exercise, I might realise that my priority is in fact to first develop my business offer in order to earn more more so that I can liberate more time for training. If I don’t do this, I will have to a) squeeze in training in an already busy schedule and b) end up paying divorce costs due to marital negligence 🙂
Ready to think strategic??
STEP 1: Start by defining your mission
There is no sense in doing a positioning exercise if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve.
Example: If I ask you if I am strong, depending on what objective you imagine me working on, you may come up with completely different answers…
When defining your mission, be sure to use quality goals. Read my other blog post on PERSONAL goal-setting for some starter ideas..
STEP 2: …then assess your current position
One of my favourite tools for doing this remains the SWOT analysis. A good SWOT will give you ideas on recurring themes for improvement. Note: I said a GOOD SWOT !
- Read here for some of my favourite SWOT questions
- …and here for some tips on how to be complete in your general approach to SWOT
Another tool I really like regarding personal influence is the network influence-grid proposed by Jo Owen in his book “How to Influence“. He suggests that for all the people in your network, you need to assess them in terms of whether or not you have a good relationship with them and whether or not they have power (to help you in your mission). A network influence-grid therefore has 4 quadrants…
When the people you know are mapped out in their relevant quadrants, you will better focus on people who are realy useful (top-right) or think about how to better leverage the existing relationships you have to get what you need.
STEP 3: Now, look for priority areas for action
I find that if I have done a good job of assessing my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, when I look at the results there are recurring and linking themes. These are the things to work on. Don’t worry about action yet, just look at which things seem to come back and back.
For example, in my last SWOT exercise I saw that:
- My network was very complete
- …but that I wasn’t using it well enough
- I have great references for training work
- …but never ask for referrals
- There was an opportunity to better develop my own client base
An obvious priority strategic action: Leverage own network.
STEP 4: When your priorities are clear, plan baby steps
I am finally reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen right now. One of my clients said it was a great book, but I thought: What else could there be to learn about priority management? In the first 10 pages I had my answer:
Turn unmanageable TO-DO lists into “next concrete action” (baby-steps) lists.
In the scope of our exercise, this means asking 2 questions for each of the priority strategic actions noted previously:
- What would be an ACCEPTABLE outcome?
- What is the NEXT CONCRETE ACTION you need to take?
If you’ve followed the 4 steps ahead, you should have some good ideas to get moving with.
Thanks for reading 🙂
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