Make Strategy Your Sidekick

Business today requires adaptability and agility. To get in the game, let alone stay in it, you must be able to pivot with confidence. And just how do you pivot with confidence? Utilizing strategic planning.

The word strategy often inflicts an overwhelming and daunting feeling. There is a disbelief that only those at the top are responsible for strategy. Or that it requires a certain level of training to execute. However, this creative process should be a constant companion in all endeavors from decision making to weekly planning, goal setting to forecasting.

New framework for thinking

First, you must change the way you think about strategy. The process itself is creative and requires leaving linear thinking behind. Simplify and uncomplicate your approach so the process can aid with reliable and quick decision making.

When coaching my clients on decision making, I introduce them to the cone of uncertainty concept. Consider a hurricane forecast map. The predicted path of destruction widens in a cone-like shape the farther you move from the epicenter of the storm. This is the forecaster’s way of saying, “Hey, we predict the path of the storm will travel right down the middle of the cone. However, there are variables we can’t accurately predict this far in advance, so we have provided these parameters of possibility, so you can best prepare.

When setting your strategy, use a cone of uncertainty to outline your direct and preferred path with awareness of other potential pathways. This framework allows you to pivot quickly and reduces fear of the unknown.

The Why

Strategy is driven by the why. In the same way you align your work to a purpose, your strategy plan must always align to your why. It’s difficult for your team or employees to get behind a plan that isn’t purposeful for them or their customers. So, keep the why clear and connected when communicating goals and plans for rapid buy-in.

Keep it simple

Life is chaotic enough. Here are a few tips to help you craft a simplified strategic planning session.

  • Do the thought work necessary to understand your current state and your desired future state.
  • Paint the bigger picture. Without this knowledge, you could miss key steps or variables in your plan.
  • Break down your strategy into small, actionable steps. Once you have determined the final goal, work backwards by breaking each phase into small, detailed actions until you arrive back at your current state.
  • Plan for contingencies and variables so you remain agile.
  • Stay flexible. Adaptability is key to your strategy’s survival.
  • Use a thinking tool to accomplish your best thought work.
  • Use a planning tool to create your roadmap.
  • Don’t limit your thinking in the approach.

Choosing your tools

Thinking Tools

Everyone has a style for how they solve problems. Some people enjoy being in a quiet space with an excel spreadsheet while others prefer collaborative discussions with visual aids. I do my best thinking with auditory whiteboarding (yes, I made that up). I like to verbally talk through problems—often in a room by myself. This allows me to picture the problem working out in my mind—almost like I’m drawing it out on a whiteboard. So determine your personal style, and get to brainstorming.

Planning Tools

Are you a fan of March Madness brackets? (Who isn’t?!) Brackets can be one of the best tools for creating simple strategic plans with actionable steps. Just start with one major goal and use a bracket to branch out four to six small steps that will help you accomplish that goal. Super simple strategy planning!

Mapping tools are also fantastic for helping you visualize your plan. From your standard flowcharts to mind maps, there are a variety of flow chart plugins available for Excel and Google Drawings. These tools allow you to quickly visualize roadblocks and inefficiencies in your plan.

Now with your way of thinking reframed, implement strategy as your day-to-day sidekick. The more you utilize these new ways of thinking, the better you’ll be at making quick decisions and pivoting with confidence.