Strategy is the road map you use to achieve your personal, family, organisational, or national vision. Just as when people plan a road trip, there are many different ways and means to choose from to get from point A (where we start from), to point B, where we would like to go. For example, the degree of pre-planning for the road trip depends on many things, purpose for the trip (pleasure, job interview, visit to the new mall, etc.), how many times we have been there before (daily, weekly, once a month, once a year, never), whether we have a competent co-pilot or a GPS (if it’s me, you better take lots of maps, and if you are traveling to a new place in the UAE it will not be in the system), or you could simple just “follow the signs” and stop at a lot of gas stations on the way to ensure a full tank and to double check we are on the right road.
Here comes the tricky part though, in really life and in really organisations there is rarely a detailed road map to follow – and if there is, there are so many new roads, new detours, and old roads that just don’t exist anymore – the detailed road map followed by others before you just doesn’t quite fit the current lay of the land.
OK – so strategy is mapping out how to get from point A to point B, following a general direction (your vision or purpose) – but how to you build the map, especially if you are starting with basically a blank page!
It’s obvious now, mapping out a strategy is about asking questions, gathering information, asking some more questions, gathering the resources you need (car, gas, fancy water, snacks in the case of a fun road trip for example), and then start sketching out the map.
But what questions need to be asked? What information needs to be gathered? What resources are needed now, could be needed mid-route and will most certainly be needed by the time we reach point B?
When developing organisational (or personal for that matter) strategy a framework to ask the right questions is needed. The one I use by habit, ease of use and through a love of its simplicity is the SWOT. What are the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organisation (or the future organisation, or myself) and what are the opportunities and threats “outside” – be it in the industry, the community, the economy, the regulatory environment, etc.
So, you need to ask –
1. What are the strengths (skills, access to resources, social capital) that are in my “hands” that will help me achieve my vision?
2. What are the weaknesses (often the flipside of our strengths) that could prevent me from achieving my vision?
3. What are the opportunities that can be taken to help me along the path to achieving my vision?
4. What are the threats which could block or slowdown achieving my vision?
So the basic framework – which when you look at it – each of those four questions needs to be broken down into a lot of other questions in a lot of categories. Also, if the information is easy to come by to answer your questions, then that means your roadmap will not look that much different from everyone else’s.
So think, be creative – ask for help – READ what others have done before you – take a strategy class J But write it down, first step buy a nice new note book and open to page one – and start dreaming.
I know, I know – I keep mentioning vision and I didn’t mention how to get one…. Maybe next post…