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October 20, 2015

Make Time to Let Strategy Lead

By: Nakeia Drummond

“I’m late, I’m late for a very important date.”

The Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland manages to appear in the form of an executive at every organization I’ve supported. He’s focused on this moment only. He clearly has something really pressing to attend to. Dressed in his finest, he’s zipping off with glassy, over-worked eyes. He doesn’t have time to stop to communicate because whatever is happening right now is urgent and well… late. While his destination is very likely important, and we share in his anxiety about getting there, it’s neither clear where he’s going nor how to support him. Every time, I see the Rabbit I can’t help but wonder if his lateness is a result of his unwillingness to take the time to plan, then execute.

Many leaders do not want to take the time to plan. They have great visions and they want to move from vision to execution. The sooner everyone can get onboard and begin to bring their visions to light, the better. There’s just one major problem. Visions are not strategies and they certainly aren’t plans. Without clear plans, visions become fuzzy and initiatives that have great potential lose focus. Suddenly the initiative is late and over-spent and the team is frustrated and over-worked.

So how does a leader ensure that a strategic initiative meets goals when the day-to-day demands are driving the entire team or organization?

Shift the focus from tasks and deadlines to strategy and metrics.

  • Articulate vision with strategic pillars – Strategic pillars make vision more tangible and digestible to those who are tasked with delivering on it.
  • Develop a strategic plan for the strategic pillars – A strategic plan offers more detail into what the organization plans to do in order to achieve the vision through the strategic pillars.
  • Ensure ownership and accountability by setting performance targets – Performance targets are guideposts for the leader and the team.
  • Develop project plan(s) – Using the strategic plan which communicates what the initiative will achieve, developing project plan(s) that align with the strategic pillars provides the team with a roadmap for getting there.
  • Regularly track progress towards target – While the team and leader will continue to work towards meeting deadlines, tracking towards targets and goals offers more insight into goal and vision actualization.

I use this approach with my clients and my business an continue to find that it offers clarity and results to the organization and team while also enabling me to lead instead of manage. While project management is important, alone it does not ensure that teams avoid sacrificing strategic work for the daily firefights. Leading through strategy does three things for initiatives:

  1. Aligns the team around clearly defined and consequential objectives that uphold the vision.
  2. Enables the team to focus collective thoughts and efforts on the most at-risk aspects of the initiative.
  3. Provides a clear indication of progress towards a goal.

Too many initiatives move from vision to project plan where a leader spends much of his or her time checking on the completion of tasks and deliverables. There is a way out. It means shifting from the mentality of just get it done at the expense of stopping to plan. But, I must say that once they commit to it, even the “Organizational Rabbits” admit that it’s worth the time.

Want to learn more?

Join Nakeia Drummond for “From Planning to Production: Using Strategic Planning and Project Management to Meet Goals” on Friday, November 6 from 9am-2pm. During this workshop students will identify specific challenges in current projects and develop action plans for addressing those challenges utilizing tools and strategies offered in the course. Register Here.


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