“How do you help the organization stay focused on the strategy and not become distracted?”
Human beings are somehow conditioned to go after the latest shiny object. I don’t really know why. I’m sure it has something to do with mankind’s desire to constantly move our species ahead as a whole. But that would be far too philosophical a topic to try and tackle within the context of a strategy blog! So, for now, we’ll just accept the fact that this temptation to constantly shift gears is, indeed, a natural bit of our programming that we have to find a way to overcome – at least as it relates to running a business.
Of course, the easiest way to do this is to have a formal and well-communicated strategy that can help keep your organization traveling along a clear and unwavering path. But that’s only half the challenge, because unexpected things are almost certainly going to come up. And these little challenges can only be pre-empted if they can also be anticipated. So, let’s see if we can find a way to do just that.
In my experience, there are two main dynamics that will serve to distract even the best of strategies: The first is unplanned creativity and the second is unplanned imitation.
In the first place, businesses are filled with clever, innovative people who all want to put their respective marks on the world. No sooner will you put your strategy in place, when people will start coming up with ideas on their own – sometimes just for the purpose of being contrary or different. That’s unplanned creativity. Of course, this can also be a good thing as long as it’s kept under some level of control. To do that, you simply need to collaborate with all interested parties when developing your strategy, and then make sure to leave a controlled outlet for those same people to have their ideas heard as your strategy is being implemented.
In the second place, businesses are filled with aggressive, competitive people. And we are very likely to react when we see competitors doing something that we wish we had done ourselves. That’s unplanned imitation. And, just like unplanned creativity, it isn’t always a bad thing, as long as it can be controlled. To do this, you need to foster an environment that allows for incremental rather than imitative innovation. In short, put out the word ahead of time that you are not going to spend time chasing after someone else’s ball – at least not unless you can somehow transform that ball into something that will ultimately change the game that you’re playing.
So, there you have it – a couple of common distractions along with a couple of potential ways to keep those distractions from happening. And the more you can anticipate these dynamics within the context of your strategic plan, the more equipped you’ll be to harness your team’s human instincts rather than letting them take you off your game.
Listen to the podcast episode
Dear Strategy: Episode 040