10 Important Lessons I Learnt About The Power Of Strategy
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Probably like you, I am a believer that the right strategy ensures a successful outcome, and that the wrong -or outdated- strategy wastes valuable resources, and needlessly delays the results. The trick is to select the perfect strategy- or have the ability to create it from scratch. In my view, the right strategies are what makes a person or company a success or failure today.
In the old days, hard work, commitment, effort, dedication, and “following the rules” were how you succeeded. It worked, but it was very, very costly in all areas: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. However, in the new millennium, it is clear that smart people are no longer willing to suffer for success- not even a little bit. The answer? Strategies. Creative strategies. Customized strategies. Clever strategies. Strategies are the keys to success, no matter what the goal.
But you have to know these strategies- a lot of them. And some that you have never heard of or never even considered. And you have to learn how to craft, adapt, and synthesize them to fit your situation or that of your company or clients. Strategizing is a skill, and it is a skill that you can benefit from forever in your career, business, and in your personal life. This list contains 10 lessons that I myself personally learnt about the power of strategy, and includes several examples of types of strategies.
A strategy is ‘how’ you get something accomplished, whether you are doing the work, someone else is doing the work, or the strategy itself doing the work. People sometimes get strategies, plans, goals, outcomes, mission, purpose, vision, and action steps confused.
A strategy is how something gets done, not just what you do. A strategy is your approach. It is your positioning. It is your smart way of reaching the goal with the least amount of wasted effort or cost. With a strategy, you are not always working directly on the goal itself, but rather on improving or positioning the environments, relationships, resources, flows, systems, or even yourself. So, strategies are very different from a plan. In fact, when you devise the right strategy, the plan naturally becomes obvious. But without the strategy, the plan is merely a set of linear action steps.
The first reason to develop a strategy is to save yourself time, money, and effort. In other words, by using a strategy, you are using your intelligence and creativity to be clever, instead of just focusing on sheer effort and action steps. Anyone can recommend action steps, but it’s the effective coach, professional, or executive who always designs a strategy before embarking on the action steps, or quickly develops a better strategy when they see that the action steps are not working the way they should be.
The second reason to develop a strategy is to expand the outcomes. The right strategy always expands the goals and the outcomes. Think of Amazon.com. Their original goal was to be the largest seller of books, and their strategy to achieve that goal was to use the Internet as their storefront. But the strategy of using the internet has proven so brilliant, it has expanded their goals, so now Amazon.com offers music, videos, gifts, software, and who knows what else! Their strategy became “even more important” than their original goal.
Every goal, then, deserves a clever strategy. Goal setting, without an accompanying strategy, is fairly impotent and usually expensive. Sure, you can accomplish goals without having a strategy, but why not use the power of strategy to help you reach the goal more easily? Why not use your mind, wisdom, and creativity to make life occur more easily for you? Why slog through life?
There are many viable strategies available for virtually every situation. Did you know there are at least a dozen distinct strategies to help a person reach goals in each of these areas? Let’s take the personal development area for a moment. To help a client (or yourself) develop personally, you can use any number of strategies.
For example, you can use: the Integrity Strategy, the Personal Foundation Strategy, the Attraction Strategy, the Personal Evolution Strategy, the Spiritual Strategy, the Healing Strategy, the Extreme Self Care Strategy, the Integration Strategy, the Evolution Strategy, the Beliefs Strategy, the Bodywork Strategy, the Acceptance/Detachment Strategy, the Super Reserve Strategy, the Over respond Strategy, the Awareness Strategy, and the Self-Esteem Strategy.
Each of these strategies helps a person to develop himself/herself. Wouldn’t it be nice to know something about each one of them? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know enough to be able to play chef, and craft the perfect combination of ingredients from all of them, and whip up a customized strategy for a client, within minutes? That’s the power of strategy!
Strategies are key to business success as well. There is not a single business today that isn’t using a strategy of some kind to grow or manage that business. But are they using the best strategy? Are they using the most current strategy? Are they using a customized strategy?
Let’s take one of the most popular areas of business today -business performance- and list a dozen strategies that might be used to help a company improve its performance.
You could use: the Creating a Gap Strategy, the Incentives Strategy, the Vision Strategy, the Competition Strategy, the Coaching Strategy, the Leverage Strategy, the Customers-As-R&D-Team Strategy, the Internet Marketing Strategy, the Automation Strategy, the Eliminate Delay Strategy, the Virtual Management Strategy, Intrapreneur Strategy, the Reinvention Strategy, and/or the Creativity-Skills Strategy. Oops…that’s 14 strategies! See how easy this is?
You are already familiar with some of these, and others are probably new to you. But wouldn’t it be helpful to be familiar with all of them? Would that make you wise? Wouldn’t that make you highly effective with your clients, with your company and/or in your own personal life?
Creativity is essential for strategizing. One of the most fascinating aspects of strategy is that the process of developing strategies is a highly creative one. True, you can use off-the-shelf strategies. But it is also important to be able to craft and customize strategies. You do this by first learning the basic strategies for personal and business success (I have personally identified over 200 of them). Once you know these, when you ask yourself the questions above, you will have enough raw material to invent something new that fits perfectly for your situation or a client’s. And quickly and intuitively. It helps to have the raw materials (a list of already-known strategies) in your pantry.
Strategies evolve you, in addition to helping you achieve your goals faster. In any personal or business situation, there are three elements: the person, the goal, and the strategy. I call these the who, the what, and the how. In an earlier point, I mentioned that the strategy affects and expands the goal, using Amazon.com as the example. But did you know that a strategy can also expand who you are? Think about it. I bet Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) is a bigger/more expanded person since he began implementing this strategy to reach his initial goal. In some ways, the original goal expanded Jeff, meaning that he began to think bigger and got stretched as he launched Amazon.com. But as he developed his strategy of using the internet, I say that this strategy expanded and evolved him as well.
In other words, what I am saying is that our goals and our strategies have as much to do with our personal evolution as do our direct efforts in that area. Or to put it another way, if you really want to evolve yourself, find a goal, create a clever strategy and watch the evolution occur. Strategies are a catalyst for personal evolution. It sure beats willpower, expensive efforts and arrogance.
Strategies let you achieve in the middle of chaos. There is a lot that has been said about ‘change’ and ‘change management’ during the past ten years. And, with the development of the internet, change is changing. In fact, the rate of time is also changing, given an Internet Year is about three months, not twelve months. We are all re-evaluating what it is that we really want and how we’re going to achieve it.
I think it is fair to say that we are moving from a rational world (predictable, logical) to an irrational world (unpredictable, illogical). If this progression is true, then it means that chaos had better become our friend and fast, instead of us trying to control or limit the chaos (how 80s!). But how do we, as humans, ‘hold’ chaos, given it brings up fear and stimulates us in ways we cannot predict? The answer that I have found for myself is to become an expert on strategies. I find that when I focus on strategies, I can handle -and actually enjoy- chaos. I do not need to know the outcome. After all, as chaos increases, outcomes become less and less predictable.
It is as important to be an expert in strategies as it is to be dedicated to results. Earlier you may remember that I said that the right strategy will expand the goal in very cool ways? I used Amazon.com as my example. Now, I have nothing against goal setting and goal achievement- that makes the world go ‘round. But I feel that it’s as important to learn the skills of strategy design, as it is to learn how to deliver results. Why? Because if you only deliver results, it means that you’re using older strategies, not inventing newer ones. It means that you’re good at running a Barnes and Noble Store, but ignorant that the majority of books will soon be purchased online.
Put it another way. If I was your business mentor, I could help you reach your goals, using mentoring and communication skills, and you could benefit from my experience of having helped a hundred other people reach that same type of goal. But I’d just be giving you “fish” instead of teaching you how to fish. So, part of what I do with my clients is that I share strategies with them, not just action steps. And I teach my clients how to strategize, so that they can devise their own strategies, far after they’ve stopped mentoring with me.
Teaching a client how to strategize is the ultimate in empowerment. You are giving them the tools to empower themselves. And that’s an “annuity of value” from which the client will benefit for a lifetime.
Finally, everyone is a strategist. Everyone can be a better strategist. It’s just a matter of how good you are or are becoming. After all, strategy is not a department. It is a life skill.