Recently, I had been talking with a number of friends and business contacts and there was a recurring word that kept cropping up during the conversation. The word was strategy. Interestingly, it was not being used in the same vein in these conversations or in the same context, but the word itself was used during these various discussions.
More often than not, it was in the context of: “I know this is very tactical, not strategic.” Or “Let’s forget strategy for a second…”
This led me to some thinking and I realized that with one of my clients, this is a recurring theme at nearly every meeting I attend. In fact, I’m not sure that the team I operate with actually has a strategy. All the momentum seems to be propelled by fixing short term operational issues.
So, why do we struggle with strategy? We all know it’s important and that it sets the roadmap for our direction, blah, blah, blah… but we still struggle with it don’t we?
I would suggest there are 7 reasons we struggle with strategy:
1. Insufficient Thinking Time
The hard thing about strategy is that we have to think about it, right? It means we actually have to really think about what we are are trying to achieve and how we need to go about it. We just don’t have the time for that do we? Let’s put that off until we do have time, shall we?
2. Having to Plan Ahead
Oh Strategy! That’s that thing that means planning ahead. I don’t even know what I’m wearing tomorrow or what we’re doing this weekend, so please don’t force me to think for a year or two ahead.
3. I Live for the Now
What’s happening NOW is so much more exciting than thinking about something that may happen. Putting out fires is fun and important. Lighting them is even more NOW. Worrying about the future is for planners!
4. Shiny Object Syndrome
Yep, I believe it even is officially now known as SOS (not to be confused with the international Morse code distress signal, meaning, Save Our Souls).
It is not quite ADD/ADHD, but more about a new idea capturing our imagination and attention so that we get distracted from the larger picture and go off on tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal. And whatever new shiny object appears, we get hypnotized by it and our attention gets a new focus.
5. No Goals
For any strategy to be devised, we have to have clearly defined objectives or goals. In many cases I have found teams with undefined, wooly goals – and in some cases, no goals at all.
6. Can’t See The Wood For The Trees
This is similar to the SOS syndrome, but instead of focusing on the latest toy, we seem incapable of focusing on anything except the details. We are therefore accused of being very tactical. I suppose this is where the where the firefighting expression came from, as lighting numerous fires is a great way to get rid of all the trees.
7. Short Term Operational Priorities
This expression has actually been used with me as an excuse for why there was no strategy. The problem is, if we had long term operational priorities, they would be part of our strategies and perhaps we wouldn’t have these short term issues?
OK, a somewhat light hearted view of why we struggle with strategy and I am sure I am missing some and would be more than happy to hear them from you, my astute readers.
But, they really are excuses aren’t they?
Shouldn’t we be better than we are at strategy?