In my first entrepreneurial venture, I often confused tactical activity with strategic activity. If it was important to the business it must be strategic, right? Fortunately I learned from other business leaders (many of them my customers) that tactical activity addresses the needs of today (short-term), while strategic activity is focused on transforming your business from where it is today to where you want it to be in the future.
We often refer to the tactical and operational parts of our leadership roles as “working in the business”, and the strategic activity as “working on the business”. Working in the business is executing and conducting existing processes and projects that support your current state. Working on the business is identifying and committing to new opportunities and priorities that support the accomplishment of your desired future state or vision. Understanding this difference is a key leadership skill as well as finding the right balance between important and urgent.
A company with vision has a clear purpose, a set of core values, and a clear picture of its desired future state. If the vision is inspiring enough and the gap between your current reality and future state is challenging enough, you will experience significant tension for change. This tension for change translates into strategy as you identify the handful of strategic moves that will effectively transform your business and achieve your vision.
However, strategic execution takes more heavy lifting than just identifying a vision and the strategic moves to get you there. In fact there are three prerequisites for successful strategy development and execution.
You must be bold and have a passionate conviction for what your business is capable of achieving. Without this passion and boldness your vision is likely to be quite bland and uninspiring. And an uninspiring vision will not produce the tension for change that is at the heart of all good strategy. As Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame has said, “Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible.”
This may seem obvious, but you have to be willing to accept and drive change in order to successfully execute strategically. Many a leader or leadership team will talk about their desire for a better future, and even define what it is, only to reject the very change required to achieve it. Often this reticence to change is because the current state of affairs is pretty good, and it’s hard to justify the hard work necessary to achieve something better. I’m often told that leading change is impossible because human beings hate change. This is simply not true. What human beings hate is being asked to change without the benefit of understanding why they must change. An inspiring vision provides leaders with all they need in order to communicate the why, and gain employee engagement in the transformation.
Successful leaders know how to energize and mobilize people to achieve extraordinary results. Leadership is not a rank, it is a choice. Many a leader has the title & benefits, yet refuses to do the real work of leaders – transforming their team, division or company from good to great. If you have transformational leaders, your likelihood of successfully achieving your vision is very high. If you have leaders of rank but little transformational substance, make the necessary changes or risk repeated frustration as your strategic execution is thwarted by poor leadership and acceptance of the status quo.
Do you have a passionate conviction that your business can be even better than it is today? If so, put on your strategic thinking cap and define a future that will give your leadership team new energy, and passionately engage your employees. Create an inspiring vision, build the strategy, focus on the transformation, and provide execution leadership by energizing & mobilizing your people toward extraordinary results.
Article by John Leduc
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