We are still in the first quarter of this year and your company, probably like a majority of other companies, may have chalked out its goals for the year ahead and might even have a strong strategy in place to go after these goals. This strategy hopefully acts like the gears of change that propel the company forward to meet the set goals. But before forging full steam ahead, make sure you as an individual have these five universal gears to drive an effective strategy in place. Whether you are a CEO, a freelancer, a consultant to various clients, or an internal consultant, these five gears are golden. As good as your strategy may look on paper, without these elements it could fall flat during execution. Maneuvering around with these five gears may be challenging, but getting it right will set you and your company apart from the thousands of other people and companies going after their yearly goals.
“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The above quote is one of my favorite quotes on “insight,” and to me, gaining insight before an activity is the crucial first step, as this gives rise to clarity. What you need in order to drive an effective strategy is real clarity. You need clarity in terms of how your job is driving growth for your company and in terms of customers, contracts, and revenue – on an everyday basis. Ask yourself every day before you begin your tasks if they are contributing in some way to the bottom-line. In the rat race to achieving your goals, it’s quite easy to lose sight of the finish line and just run frantically!
Start a task by gathering insights, and gather insights consistently along the way to achieve clarity and keep track of the bottom-line!
2nd Gear:Collective Learning and Empowerment
As you are busy executing a strategy, you will learn several lessons along the way. These lessons may fall broadly into the categories of “what to do” and “what not to do” and should eventually lead to “what to do better” or “what can be done to make it better.” Pay attention to these lessons, learn, and most of all share your learning with your peers.
This creates empowerment. By just sharing lessons learnt, you become a person who empowers other people; you become a leader.
Collective learning, or organizational learning, is important for better employee engagement and higher productivity. Pay attention to the T, V, and M (Touch, Volume, Margin) of your own tasks, be enthusiastic, and most of all, keep changing for the better.
Imagine a dragon boat race:the crew or the team needs to row in a rhythmic fashion, cut through the water, and move past their competition. This is the same thing you need within a team and with different teams or departments across an organization. When there is a good rhythm, it is easier to slice through the deepest water and move forward. If there is misalignment or bad cadence, then what you have is disturbed water, futile effort, and a messy situation in hand!
Do not wait for quarterly reviews and annual strategy meetings to address misalignment; correct misalignment whenever it rears its ugly head!
Measurement – ironically, this is textbook stuff, but many of us falter when it comes to measuring our actions. Goals need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), and your strategy needs to measure these smart goals on a regular basis!
Take stock and see if your actions are measurable, and then measure them in an intelligent way. What are the returns or results of your actions? Create tangible and quantifiable criteria to measure results. True, not every aspect of business is quantifiable; there are those intangible, quality-oriented tasks and resources. That said, they can still be measured. So measure away.
If your numbers add up, great! If they don’t, cut back any activity that does not make you, your team, and your company better in a concrete way.
Sometimes, even the best of us tend to take things for granted or have a sense of entitlement. Watch out for this trait, as it leads to complacency and then your own downfall. In my post Business is like Hunting, I stressed on why no one should eat for free. People should have scouted, killed, cooked, and/or cleaned before they can savor the meal.
The best thing you can do for yourself and for a company is to develop a culture of ownership and accountability. Each person needs to contribute to his or her highest potential. By really owning your tasks and being accountable for the results, you create value for yourself and for the people around you.
So there you have it – the simple yet effective five golden gears for driving a sound strategy. These gears have to fit with one another, have to move, have to be greased, and need to turn in the right direction. The way to master the movement of these five golden gears is to keep practicing. The more you practice, the better you execute, and in turn, the better you will drive all areas of your life.
Edwin has authored 9Lenses Insight to Action:A Social Approach to Business Optimization and Snapshot9 What’s Your Picture?:Accelerate Your Business Performance. Click here to download the first chapter of 9Lenses Insight to Action for free!