Striking the balance between fulfilling your organization’s daily requirements and contributing to its long-term strategic vision can be incredibly difficult.
Employees at all levels working in a huge variety of industries are being asked to accomplish more with ever-fewer resources, and the toll that this takes on the time, energy, and focus of the workforce is heavy.
Unfortunately, this new reality is unlikely to change any time soon. What this means is that fewer employees are keeping organizations afloat, and the long-term, strategic viability of these businesses hangs in the balance.
Organizations do not stay alive simply by reacting to the short-term needs of their customers. Although providing high-quality goods and services may help a business maintain its current status in the industry, it will neither help the business grow nor will it help the organization weather changes in a fickle marketplace—and operating within a time-tested but potentially obsolete business model certainly won’t prepare the business to serve new customers in the future.
Strategic work is often relegated to the “do later” pile because it doesn’t satisfy an immediate need; with fewer people to handle the load, overworked employees are given little short-term incentive to complete “extra” assignments. The problem with this mindset is that it sets up both the employees and the business to become outmoded in a changing world. The same job simply cannot be done in the same way in a globally competitive business environment for very long.
The key to finding balance between fulfilling today’s expectations and planning for tomorrow’s demands is to make smart choices about the kinds of work you do and the manner in which you do it. Think about the processes you are asked to follow when completing a task at your job.
Are there ways to expedite this process without sacrificing the quality of the end product? Think about the clients you serve and the projects (internal or external) that you accept. What choices could you make that would allow you to use your time most efficiently and for the betterment of the business’ future?
A careful analysis of the various facets of your daily job responsibilities will likely reveal areas where you may be able to upgrade, change, reduce, revise, or do away with tactical clutter that is preventing you from having the time to think and act more strategically.
Even if there isn’t a single thing that you can simply stop doing, there will certainly be some work items that can be approached in a different way and tasks that will help smooth the path towards developing a more-strategic frame of mind.
CMOE calls this process “creating strategic discipline”: establishing boundaries and scheduling time into your busy day to work on your personal strategic initiatives. We have provided a few ideas how to get started creating your own strategic disciplines below:
- Schedule a meeting with yourself that takes place on the same day or at the same time every week. The time you set aside for this meeting would be used to focus on your strategic priorities.
- Post a sign on your office door that says “Strategy Creation in Progress. Available after _________” and encourage other members of your team to do the same.
- Have a working lunch with yourself and use the time to think through your strategic plan, the strategic tasks that need to be completed, and your timeline for completing them.
- Establish “office hours” for non-life-threatening interruptions, and give your team members the authority to work through problems and make decisions without your explicit approval.
- Devote one hour at the beginning of your day (or an hour at the beginning and an hour at the end, or two hours in the middle, or whatever works best for you) to responding to email and voicemail messages; turn off access to text and instant messages while you’re engaged in strategic work so you can concentrate your full attention on the task at hand.
- Decide which of your duties are absolutely mandatory. Relegate time-intensive tactical distractions and other “Tier II” demands to the non-essential category and deal with them accordingly.
- Establish firm deadlines for strategic projects; treat these deadlines with the same care you would treat a deadline for a client, a senior leader, or an external stakeholder.
- Explore the relationships between your everyday responsibilities, your strategic vision, the strategic vision of your business unit, and the long-term vision of the organization; whenever possible, engage in work that bridges the gaps between these critical areas.
- Learn how to “Tame the Beast™”.
Some of these suggestions will fit within the culture of your organization better than others; you may find that some of them work quite well for you while others don’t work at all. These ideas are only the beginning.
We are certain that if you set your mind to it, you’ll come up with a bagful of brilliant ways to demand greater strategic discipline of yourself, and you’re sure to influence the future of your organization as a result. Perhaps you already have. What are some of the tricks you use to carve out time to make a greater strategic contribution to your organization? We’d love to hear about your experiences