When Your Strategy Stalls

Over the last several years, the CMOE Team has worked with countless leaders on their strategic fit and contribution to their organizations.  We have dedicated ourselves to gathering strategic intelligence and best practices for the individual contributor, leader, and team.  Our development resources center on strategic thinking skills and principles that assist individuals at any level of the organization in creating successful strategy maps.

In our one-on-one strategy consulting with leaders, we require accountability for results conversations regarding strategic progress. Several leaders have admitted to us they have gotten stuck along the way for various reasons. Not enough time, not enough resources, not enough focus or energy to get working on the strategy.  When these are the responses leaders throw out to excuse inaction or non-progress, we always probe further in order to better understand the obstacles getting in the way.

When a leader says, “I just haven’t had the time,” this may be a case of tactical addiction.  Too many of us are so focused on the here and now, the ever-growing task and to-do list, instead of strategic discipline.  We find that leaders enjoy accomplishing task after task and some even thrive on this addiction to task completion.  One pattern we see regularly is the Manager who is in a development training session who can’t put the smart phone down.  These Manager’s bolt out the door as fast as possible when its break time to make a call back to their team.  If a Leader cannot spend a day or even a half of a day in a training session without checking in it is a tell-tale sign that this leader is tactically focused, and hasn’t developed the team enough to handle assignments without them.  To get out of this tactical rut ask

  1. Have I set aside enough time to create and execute on strategic priorities?
  2. What is preventing me from getting out of the activity trap?
  3. What new disciplines will I need to adopt to ensure I get out of the activity addiction?
  4. What should I delegate to others in order to make a more strategic contribution?

Yes folks, creating functional strategy requires discipline.  There is a great line in a recently released heist movie that applies here.  These thieves were discussing their plan to steal a baseball stadium of all its cash, the statement is made, “You know this is going to be difficult, right?”  The line that follows is “Well, if it were easy, everyone would do it.”  Having strategic discipline is very similar.  If strategic focus were easy to come by, everyone would do it and be great at it.  Inevitably, what makes strategy easier for leaders is practice, dedicated think time, and conscious effort.

When a leader says, “I don’t have all the resources I need,” he or she may have a prioritization issue.  A key difference between an average leader and a strategic leader is someone who effectively analyzes tradeoffs and makes conscious decisions regarding what to do, what not to do, and why.  A strategic leader goes through his or her day with purpose, intent and planning.  When a leader works on one thing at a given moment, there could be a more-important focus area that is being ignored.  There has been and will continue to be an infinite number of things to do, but maintaining strategic discipline by prioritizing ideas, actions, decisions, goals, and initiatives, and then making sure that those items are in alignment with your leaders and the organization will help you discover that which matters most. Consciously making reasonable tradeoffs on behalf of your strategic efforts will pay big dividends.

A leader who says, “I haven’t maintained focus on my strategy” is indicating that the strategy is not energizing or exciting, or it could be so big it is overwhelming.  Let’s face it: we would all prefer to work on things that invigorate and inspire, but there will be strategies that are fed to us by our leaders that may not be all that fun to work on.  One key here is finding something that enlivens and motivates us to deliver.  Identifying the skills and talents you can leverage and bring to the strategy may increase your interest.  Reframing your strategic target and using language that puts the “wow” factor into it may also help you move it up on your list of priorities.

If your strategy stalls, look at your routine and make some adjustments.  This will pull you out of the rut, guide your strategic discipline, and get you back onto a successful strategic track.

Related Services:

About the Author

Eric Mead

Eric is A Senior Vice President for CMOE and specializes in custom learning and development solutions, sales and marketing, and performance coaching. His work in organization development has led him to facilitate workshops on Strategic Thinking, Coaching Skills, Building High Performance Teams, Managing Conflict, Personal Effectiveness, and Leadership Principles. Eric’s expertise is in communication, relationship building, management, marketing, and advertising.