How many times does this happen? Everyone arrives at the strategic offsite on Friday night. Most people party too hard that evening. More than a few of them state what needs to be done if things are going to be sorted out – whatever that means.
On Saturday morning, the session kicks off. There are a few hangovers but the facilitator is good at his job and by mid-morning a sense of inspiration is starting to emerge. There’s butcher’s paper on the walls. There are circles and arrows on the white board; and you’ve just bonded more closely with a difficult colleague.
By Sunday lunch, everyone has agreed on the mission statement. The long term targets for the strategic plan are in place and with luck there will be time for golf.
A month later it’s not humming at all.
I call it motivation fatigue. We can be so overwhelmed by inspired groupwork that it is difficult to translate it into action. I got so fed up with this syndrome that I imposed a simple rule: no one leaves without an action they can take on Monday.
It doesn’t matter how modest the action. The simpler they are, the more likely they will get done. They are often the first step in a longer journey, but action creates action and by taking the first step we at least start to chip away at the inertia.
Over time, I shifted the focus of our strategy sessions to this question: “what new action will you take on Monday?” Everyone had to answer it.
This didn’t cause a revolution, but it started dialogues where there weren’t any, and it brought action into the picture. As a famous bush poet would have it, “there was movement at the station, for the word had passed around”. Things began to hum beyond the weekend.
Don’t let your business start-up or your exciting new project get bogged down in strategic overthink. If you read the start-up stories of Apple or EBay, you will not come away thinking Jobs or Omidyar had a sound strategic plan. Rather, they just got on with it. They applied their skills to whatever opportunity turned up.
A colleague recently described a business plan as “a list of options”. You can start implementing the plan by taking one action on Monday. You’ll soon work out whether it’s the right option or not.
If it isn’t, your second choice will be better. If it’s the right one, you’ll be on your way.
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