A foggy lens clouds your vision and triggers your immediate reaction to clear that thin layer of condensation so that you could see. When your business strategy is unclear, do you take action to get clarity? To test your strategic clarity, ask:
1. What are the goals for the business?
This might seem to be a trivial question. The problem with many businesses is that their goals are too generic. Goals such as becoming the biggest camera distributor or the most trusted financial planner are visionary statements. They are grand goals. They serve well as the guiding principle for the company but lacks substance in terms of specific outcomes. You need to describe the goal using results language. This leads to the second question.
2. Can you describe the specific outcomes?
Without clearly articulating the specific outcomes, you run the risk of initiating incongruent actions to reach a vaguely defined goal. Using the camera distributor example, the actions the company would take to achieve the biggest distributor status in North America are very different from attaining the same status in Europe. The competition, local market preferences, and the cost of doing business in North America are distinctively different from those in Europe. Subsequently, the approach and the associated costs vary significantly. You need to define the outcomes for your strategy in concrete definitive terms that would guide you create a realistic roadmap. Otherwise, there are so many ways to grow. Would you approve any initiatives that lead to growth?
3. How do you know when you reach these outcomes?
It is frustrating when you spend the effort in pursuing an outcome and produce no result. There needs to be some indicators that you can monitor to validate that you are doing the right work. What are these indicators? For example, revenue growth and market share for the camera distributor would be good indicators. Without any measurement, you won’t know if you are moving closer to your goal.
These three questions facilitate a thought process to crystallize the strategy for your business. They set the stage for identifying initiatives that you would undertake to realize the specified outcomes.
A business runs the risk of spreading themselves too thin in attempting to do too much because every initiative it enlists seems to fit into their strategic mandate. As there are limited resources, divergent efforts would not bring the performance you desire. Your might be spinning your wheels because the initiatives are in conflict with each other. Your staff could end up wasting effort on low priority work because the strategic direction is unclear. Absence of a clear strategy is like walking around with foggy lenses. It is annoying and most importantly, it is dangerous because you might end up with irreversible consequences.