The Future Inevitably becomes the Present – Are You Ready?
By Julie Williamson
If you’ve set a clear strategy, you have your ‘why’ questions answered. Why pursue a new market? Why disrupt a factory process? Why divest a business, or acquire something new? But, once you’ve set that, you can’t just sit around and wait for the future to come your way.
You have to tackle the ‘how’ at some point, and that’s often what we call the ‘ice age’ of strategy – the dreaded implementation phase. ‘How’ questions become about investment of dollars, time, and other finite resources – they are where the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, too often the rubber doesn’t meet the road, and no progress is made against a well defined strategy.
Here’s the problem with that. As you’ve no doubt seen in your own organization, the future inevitably arrives. And when it does, it often has all of the problems, opportunities, and challenges you thought about when you were building your ‘why’ answers. But, if you haven’t executed on the ‘how’, you will potentially move from a burning desire to a burning need, or from a burning need to a burned down opportunity, neither of which are places you want to be.
Having a clear ‘why’ should help make the ‘how’ more approachable, but it doesn’t create the organizational fortitude to take on really big challenges. For that, you often need to build broad coalitions of support for your strategy, where the ‘why’ is well understood. This can include shareholders, market watchers, employees, customers, and others. Guess what? The only way to get that coalition on board with taking on the tough ‘how’ details is to share with them the big ‘why’ answers. If you can’t overcome organizational obstacles to make progress against your strategy, you likely haven’t grounded enough people in the strategy for them to care enough to support it. You have to be ready to inspire people to action, to bring them together to deliver on a common goal. Are you ready to do that? Or are you keeping your strategy under wraps, hoping that the forces of good will conspire to deliver on it? If you are, you will still likely struggle when it comes to answering ‘how’ as in ‘how are we going to get that done’? Share why you are doing something broadly to create the support you need to power through the tough details of how you do it.