Time for Strategy
The other day I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “If Strategy Is So Important, Why Don’t We Make Time for It?” Lured by the implied promise of a robust dissection of strategy and time, I dove in to the content. After a few sentences, I could feel my brow starting to furrow. While not inaccurate, the content seemed…quaint? Antiquated? I scrolled back to the top and saw the original publication date: June 21, 2018. My goodness, how things have changed.
Allow me to provide 2021 guidance for leaders who want to strategize but believe they don’t have time.
Plan. It’s hard to think strategically. You must summon your creativity, industry acumen, forecasting talents, and analytical training to devise a clear path forward with room for flexibility. To marshal these skills at a precisely appointed hour is nearly impossible. However, consider setting a weekly recurring reminder on your digital to-do list to strategize. It doesn’t matter at what hour or for how long you engage in strategic thinking, but as long as you commit to dedicating some time to this activity, you can make significant progress.
Delegate. It’s easier to attack and vanquish the tactical, rather than methodically plot the strategic. This is especially true when there is so much work that needs to be done. However, the more decisions you can delegate to your team, the more time you will have to focus on strategy. There is an excellent framework for empowering your team to make effective decisions, which I have used quite successfully. Not only did it save time, but it saved significant aggravation as well.
Investigate. It’s much easier to craft a strategic framework when you aren’t staring at a blank screen. With the wealth of excellent information available in the public domain, there’s no reason to start from scratch. When I sat down to create my department’s first strategic plan in the institution’s 116 year history, I scoured numerous resources in the field to see what others did. I pulled together some basic ideas from one institution in particular, then crafted the appropriate language, outcomes, and metrics to fit our needs. I even sent my counterpart at that institution an email to compliment the plan and thank him for the inspiration. (Our core activities were not in direct competition with each other.) Imagine how much more time I would have spent if I hadn’t strategically used available resources to be strategic?
Leaders can find time to think and plan strategically. They just have to be strategic about doing it.