Strategic plans move in and out of favour. Even for organizations, they are often dismissed as unworkable, inflexible or inappropriately vague. To take the same principles and apply them personally can feel overly formal or downright pretentious. At the same time, the tools of time management don’t provide a lot of guidance beyond today and this week. They might nod in the direction of longer term planning, but they don’t offer a great deal of direction on how to get there. So what’s the value of building personal strategy, what does it look like and why should you care?
We like to think of deciding as an act of deliberate intent. In actual fact, decisions often simply happen. They emerge and evolve, or arrive at a point where they are simply accepted. All appearances to the contrary, it can be difficult to point to when a decision was actually made, how it was arrived at and by whom. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways to improve not just the quality of decisions, but also clarity in the decision making process.
As we respond to the chaos around us, it can be tempting to look forward to when we are past this and “things are normal again.” Our current environment feels overwhelming and uncertain. The most appealing thing is to hide under a blanket. The most strategically important thing might be to take action. The key challenge lies in defining the action to take, and figuring out how best to coordinate and lead in a time where nothing feels certain.
One of the fundamental questions everyone wants answered is, “When will this all end?” There aren’t any clear pathways forward, nor are there any hard answers about how or when the current pandemic will conclude. There are maybes and possibilities. This week’s article starts a multi-part series about how things might play out. It starts with exploring, in a bit more detail, how we think about the future.
Vision statements—like mission statements—need to be specific, meaningful and clear. They reflect our future aspirations, and are an important test of where we are going and why that is important. Like mission statements, though, vision is often vague, imprecise and overly general. For vision to do something, it has to say something.
Pick a strategic plan. Any strategic plan. Read the mission statement, and ask what it tells you about what makes the organization it belongs to unique. All too often, the answer to that is “not much.” Rather than being defining statements of purpose, mission statements are often vague, generalized and designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t have to be this way.