Purpose before strategy
One of the big temptations in the strategy development process is to jump into 'answer' mode too early. Jumping quickly to conclusions is a real and understandable temptation. We live in a high-paced world and we want answers. We want plans to achieve our goals—the sooner the better.
Many companies start the strategic planning process by jumping to the determination of goal (what do we want to achieve?) before leaping head-long into the question of how the goal will be achieved (what is our strategy? or what is our plan?). Sometimes, this process is informed by an environmental scan. Generally, the strategies that emerge from such processes are ill-conceived and readily defeated. I've lost count of the number so-called strategic plans that follow this pattern.
The crucial element that is often missing from the strategy development process is purpose: an answer to the 'why' question. Spending time with shareholders (or, their representatives at least), with customers and possibly with a wider group of stakeholders, to work out why the organisation exists is time well spent. A drug company needs to know it exists to defeat cancer (for example) long before any strategies to develop medications or build grand marketing plans are considered. People get onboard with causes not things. Imagine how different things might have been if Martin Luther King had uttered "I have a plan" in 1963.
'Why' needs to come before 'what', in business and in research. Owners, boards and trustees of not-for-profit agencies need to own the 'why' question and doggedly pursue a response. To ignore this maxim is to simply do stuff without due reason or cause—and that's hardly conducive to the building of a sustainable business or to conducting effective research.
Thank you Alan. You've added something quite important, which I'd like to take up on a Skype or Facetime call, as you suggest. I'll send you an email separately to suggest something.
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Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.