Many of my friends and family members over the years have asked about my various travels and the clients I have worked with. I frequently get questions like, “What is your favorite place to visit?” There are several places I love to go, so answering that question is tricky. I am also asked, “What is the one place you never want to go back to?” More often than not, the answer to that question is more about the client being very difficult to work with rather than about where the client does business. I do believe that a benefit of my work is to travel to places I wouldn’t have otherwise.
With a little road experience, I have learned a few lessons along the way. My story relates to strategic success requirements. Before I could utilize Google Maps and my Garmin while on the road, I used local road maps to find various destinations in a particular area. When I first started my career at CMOE, local road maps were a must-have item because many of my clients were located in places I had never been before. I spent a small fortune on maps covering just about every major city in America. These maps currently sit in one full drawer of a filing cabinet in my office. Back then, road maps were trusted items. They were the one tool I used to navigate myself from the airport to the hotel, and from the hotel to the client’s training location. I relied heavily upon the road map, and if, on occasion, I forgot to bring a map for the area in which I was heading, I would end up extremely frustrated. Because of my occasional forgetfulness, I have more than one copy of a few city maps.
I learned a valuable lesson on one trip I took to New York City back in the late 1990’s. I arrived after midnight at LaGuardia Airport. This was my first time flying to LaGuardia and it was late in the winter season. An inch or two of snow was on the ground, so of course, the plane arrived late. On this particular trip, I had an early morning meeting with a potential client in Queens followed by a workshop presentation to conduct the following day in Stamford, Connecticut. Because of this, I decided to rent a car. I had never done this before in the New York City area, since taxis are usually the better option for traveling to various New York City destinations. I had chosen to stay at a cheap motel in Queens for a short six hours to sleep a little and be on my way. While in the air over New York City, I discovered a slight problem. I had forgotten the travel file on my desk which had the name of hotel I was staying at, all of the phone numbers and travel confirmation numbers I needed for this trip, maps of Queens, New York State, and Connecticut. In addition to that, I left my cell phone sitting on top of the file as well so I wouldn’t forget the file. Whoops.
My circumstance upon arrival was this: it was 2 am, I didn’t know where the rental car place was, I couldn’t remember the full name of the hotel I was staying at, I didn’t know how to get to the hotel, and I didn’t know where my client meeting was in a few short hours. I really had no idea what to do. I was too embarrassed to call my wife and wake her up. She could do little for me other than drive down to the office and get the information off my desk which was more than a minor hassle, and I didn’t want her to worry about me all night long. So I decided to solve this mess I created by myself. I did remember the hotel had America or US in the name, and it was just off of Queens Boulevard—somewhere. I spoke with the rental car guy and explained my circumstance. He said he would love to help me, but he needed more information to do so. He provided me verbal directions to Queens Boulevard but that was all he could do; the rental car company had run out of street maps earlier in the day. I drove in the direction he suggested but realized after a few minutes I had no idea where I was. I spent the next two hours driving in circles, including three trips and tolls on the Long Island Expressway. In the end, I was able to find Queens Boulevard and the hotel which was located only about 10 minutes from LaGuardia.
Obviously, I learned not leave really important items on my desk. I also learned a valuable lesson that applies directly to strategy: Success with any strategy requires tools and processes. Creating strategy by using a tool of some kind is much easier than creating strategy without some kind of a tool. Strategy development without tools and processes is likely to seem like the corporate flavor of the month. We’ve all seen “flavor of the month” strategies in organizations. The build-up is exciting and usually has a strong initial push for execution, but typically dies on the vine after a short period; just in time for the next big strategy to take its place. When leaders are able to use tools for strategy creation and development, the success rate of implementation is considerably higher than those strategies which are in the mind only. Strategy creation tools, like CMOE’s Applied Strategic Thinking Roadmap, keeps the strategy alive, on-task, and progressing toward implementation and execution. Strategy shapes behavior, so when you arrive at a time to create your own strategic direction, ask these questions:
- What should the strategy accomplish?
- What is the value proposition of the strategy?
- What makes this strategy unique and exciting?
- Who are the key players that will drive strategic results?
- What are the strategic mileposts that will indicate progress and success?
Use these questions and others to guide your strategic creation efforts and direction, or call us at CMOE for more information about our Applied Strategic Thinking Roadmap and Workshop.