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Strategic work made simple


4 min read

Have you ever played that game where you repeat a particular word over, and over, and over until suddenly, it just doesn’t sound right anymore? At a certain point, it stops making sense. The phenomenon is called semantic satiation and it happens in business all the time! We have a tendency to overuse terms until, frankly, they don’t hold meaning any longer.

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Take “strategic” for example. Of course, as an EMyth Business Coach, it would be impossible for me not to hear and use that term all the time; strategic work is at the core of what we coach our clients to do.

But perhaps we’ve used it too many times and it’s lost its meaning. So let’s put aside all the times we’ve heard it (or used it ourselves) and approach the basic idea of strategic work afresh. Often, clarity of communication and returning to the true import of a particular term can re-invigorate an organization and our relationships within it.

Keep it simple

Strategic work to me, first and most importantly, means thinking.That’s right. Nothing fancy about it. Nothing too crazy. Just thinking about your business; whether big picture or specific, data in hand or staring into space. It is in connecting our thought to an outcome, then a plan, that is at the heart of strategic work. 

On that note, I always recommend to my clients that they should create times when they disconnect from the tactical side of the business and simply think about the larger connections, the bigger idea… the wider context.  Schedule regular brainstorming sessions with yourself and your team. Get your ideas down on paper. And be prepared to capture your thinking in a variety of situations--from ice skating to shopping. You never know when that great idea might arrive.

The structure of strategic work

The word strategy has military origins. Strategy refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. One definition of strategy is “a plan, method or series of stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result: a strategy for getting ahead in the world.”

So how do you "get strategic"? Strategic work connects our thinking to a particular goal, and provides the step-by-step plan to realize it. Without strategy, tactics (the steps) are often misguided and off target. With the clarity of the goal and the plan, the tactics often fall into place perfectly. If not, we adjust, altering our steps based on our observations. Which means that we also must make some observations and gather some data that will tell us how well our strategy is working.

Here are five steps to give you a framework to approach strategic work.

  1. Set the goal – Goal setting or identifying the desired results is always the first step. It’s much easier to hit a target that has been identified and described, than shooting at one you can’t see. Clarity of vision is critical. Once we have a clear vision, we can really begin thinking about our business in new ways; since every idea can attach back to the vision.
  2. Think – Once we understand the desired result, you have to spend some time thinking about it. You have that goal in mind and you’re attempting to connect it into a plan that can be executed. Don’t be too hasty. Zoom out, look at the big picture. Ask questions, get to the truth of what you want to see happen. Be open, set aside assumptions. Let the intuitive side of your mind and the rational have their say in how to best deploy resources to achieve results. Gather data. Get a macro-view. Obtain all the information and opinions you can before you make your planning decisions.
  3. Plan – The next phase, planning, is probably one of the weakest in many small businesses. Don’t succumb to the idea that tactics will just follow strategy and begin happening. You have to actively plan and manage the flow from thinking to doing. Planning requires good organization and the ability to think things through in logical steps, along with good communication skills to get everyone involved.  Do it yourself, or delegate it, but don’t neglect adequate planning. Get the right tools to support your efforts, and practice project management discipline in all your planning applications and you’ll soon see a huge benefit. How does the old saying go, those who don’t plan, plan to fail! 
  4. Execute– Passing the strategy into tactics. Tactics represent the tangible events that occur in business. Serve the customer. Make the product. Go on a sales call. Unless these tactics are informed by strategic work, they won’t cohere and are often accomplished in a very haphazard manner. Identifying goals, thinking them through, organizing and orchestrating the tactics through plans and systems is the best way to secure the results you want to see happen and avoid those you wouldn’t wish on your most feared competitor.
  5. Evaluate – Quantifiable objectives must be built into this entire process. You have to have a way to properly evaluate your strategy and the tactics that have been used to achieve a particular result. If you’re not getting the results you want through your present activities, then start this strategic work cycle again, since the only way to alter your results is to change how you’re doing things.

So strategic work seems simple now, right?  Quick, try it now before the word loses its meaning again.

EMyth Team

Written by EMyth Team

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