No matter who or what is being led – a small team, an entire department, a small business or a large enterprise – every leader needs to bring clarity to a strategy in order for it to be successful. Why? Author and speaker, Andy Stanley, says it best: people follow clarity.
The vast majority of people want to do a good job. In addition to knowing what to do and how to do it, people want leaders to also ensure that – no matter what role or task has been assigned – clear expectations were set up front. A good strategic plan should be easy to understand and communicate to others so that it produces a corresponding alignment of action and behaviour. Over the years, I’ve seen (and have, sadly, written a few) well-intentioned but very complex strategies that were difficult to communicate to others. Guess what? They didn’t deliver results.
Why were those strategies done that way? Perhaps it was felt that a large, deep strategy would showcase leadership competence, further adding to the notion that leadership is best reserved for intellectuals. (Not always the case.) Or maybe it was thought that something simple couldn’t be effective. Yes, strategy should be created with good insights. But, if a strategy is to be executed effectively throughout a team or an organization, it’s important to remember that it needs to function as a communication tool.
To help ensure clarity and focus, regardless of the kind of strategy I’m working on, there are six questions I make sure I always know the answers to. These questions are a quick guide to see whether or not I’m on the right path. I also ask each manager in our company to answer the same questions to ensure there’s clarity for their own areas of responsibility.
- Why are we here?
- This is the purpose or mission. You can find a lot of consultants that help people with this first question but try not to overthink it. The purpose or mission should help answer who you are best able to serve and why that’s important.
- Where are we going?
- Give people a clear idea of what the market, business or department could look like in the future. A vision doesn’t have to be perfect as no one can predict the future, but what would you like to see? Make it tangible.
- How are we going to get there?
- What activities and actions do you need to take to fulfill the mission and vision? For example, will you make the best products, have better pricing, provide amazing service, etc? This is a critical question as answering it will often show deficiencies in your operations or your resources. At the same time, it can also show your strengths.
- Who do you need on the team?
- Who do you need to perform the activities and actions that you’ve outlined? This is an HR plan but it’s making the HR function practical and it links back to the fulfilment of the activities.
- How do we want the team to behave together?
- Answering this question will further define the core values for the company. What type of people do you want performing certain activities? These traits will lead to the type of service and the type of organizational culture you want to create. Do you want hard workers who are positive, take the initiative to solve problems and are great team players? Make sure you set clear expectations about the behaviours you want to see.
- What measures are in place to keep everyone on track and focused?
- Measures help you understand if the activities you are performing are actually adding value and fulfilling your purpose. They can be in the form of sales data, profit, number of leads, number of inquiries etc. Measures should be easy to quantify and each person should know how to “keep score” in order to track progress.
While there is more depth to each of these questions, the essence is the same. I guarantee you that by simplifying a strategy to ensure everyone can answer all six of them with clarity, you’ll see a more purposeful start that will lead to a much stronger execution that will, ultimately, deliver better results.
Is there a strategy you, your team or your company will be working on? Before you get too far in, take a few minutes to see how everyone involved would answer the six questions above.
Have a great day!