Direction Setting Is Important for All Organizations
By Reb Gooding of Direction Associates, Inc.
The first step is to decide what one wants to accomplish. If you do not care where you are going, any path will take you there…
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
(real name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) (1832-1898)
Strategic planning has been in and out of favor over the last 30 years. New names, new twists, and new marketing approaches to selling the benefits of strategic planning have created a virtual grab-bag of alternative approaches. The benefits of creating a clear strategic direction and aligning the entire organization around it are undeniable. Most organizations do not have the luxury of “walking long enough to get somewhere;” therefore, most insightful leaders truly appreciate the value of having a clearly conceived and thoroughly documented strategic plan. When creating a lean and focused organization, one of the first questions is always: ‘what is this organization trying to accomplish’? The answer can be clearly determined through strategic planning and strategic organizational alignment processes.
The concept of aligning an organization through strategic planning is quite simple. The successful implementation process is complex but absolutely worth the investment. Setting an overall strategic direction that is widely understood and supported is the crucial step in reducing misalignment. Simply stated:
- Define the direction to go
- Get everyone understanding and supporting the direction
- Assure all actions support moving in the right direction
The point is to focus the time and energy of the organization on those things that add stakeholder value, and, of course, to eliminate or reduce the time and energy spent on those things that do not add value. Strategic direction setting is a tremendous tool for “leaning-up” the content of the organization’s activity. Many lean approaches focus on improving the existing processes (lean processes); however, it is also important not to waste time “leaning-up” processes that should not exist (lean content).
While it may sound strange, we find that many tend to short-change the critical step of clearly defining the vision of what they intend to be in the future! The vision addresses the questions of who, what, how, where, and when. Who will be your customers and stakeholders in the future? What products and services will you offer in the future? What do you want to accomplish in the future? How will you win the game in the future? Where will you physically be located in the future? Where will your customers be in the future? When will you make the transition from what you are today into what you intend to be in the future?
It is not the vision statement that is vital. It is vital to make a thorough examination of the elements of what you intend to be. The organization should thoroughly understand the implications and ramifications of the vision. What is different than what the organization is doing today? What skills and expertise will be required to achieve the vision? What assets will be needed? It is the understanding of these implications that provides insight into required actions to move the organization on the appropriate path.
It is essential to recognize not only what you should start doing, but also what you should stop doing. One of the key benefits of a clearly defined vision is that the organization becomes much more focused. Activities that do not support the vision can be reduced or eliminated. Time spent on non vision supporting activities can be saved making everyone more effective.
So, when you start aligning your organization, don’t forget the vision. It is a critically important step to point the organization in the right direction based on the “compass reading” that results from thoroughly describing the vision.
Reb Gooding is one of the founders of Direction Associates an Indiana based international consulting firm.
To read more about how to implement strategic intent, please see the book: Transforming Strategy into Success: How to Implement a Lean Management System by George Shinkle, Reb Gooding, and Mike Smith and visit our website at www.directionassociates.com.