By Paul Raggio
There’s a famous refrain often quoted to those uncertain where they are headed: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there!”
Come to learn this is a paraphrase of the dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 fairytale “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!” The tale starts envisioning a bored and sleepy 7-year-old Alice, running after a talking rabbit and following it through the rabbit’s hole.
This rabbit hole leads her to a world of talking animals and animate objects, chockfull with uncertainty and sparking multiple adventures. Then, halfway through the tale, Alice meets the Cheshire Cat, and their dialogue goes like this. Alice asks the Cat, “Would you tell me please, which way do I go from here?” The Cat responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Many of you are living in uncertainty and question where you are going. Today’s business wonderland is very different than the one before the pandemic, and it’s a novel environment full of uncertainty and many adventures. Of course, there are new obstacles to overcome: growing inflationary pressures, supply chain delays, labor shortages, changing customer desires are but a few.
Nevertheless, opportunity abounds because the effects of the pandemic are slowly declining, consumer demand is high and discretionary income is flush! Likely, your market sector is disrupted, and when there is disruption, there is opportunity. It’s your job to seek it out, and you can’t effectively do that if you don’t know where you’re going.
If you’re a CEO or business owner, you should be formalizing the response to “where are you going in 2022” as part of your strategic thinking, execution planning process. However, before you start the process, define success by asking yourself, is my business sustainable, predictable, stable, consistent and emotionally connected to stakeholders? Do my leadership team, and I strive to master the five disciplines that create exponential growth: mission, strategy, business development, people and execution? Describing success provides you the framework for strategic thinking and execution planning.
Strategic thinking and execution planning is a defined and systematic, iterative process, and the operations and procedures therein are deliberately sequenced to produce superior results. Every business, as a best practice, must strategically think and execution plan annually and each quarter. Annually, the leadership team reviews where they have been and where they are going. Then they modify existing or carry-over goals or develop new ones aligned with the company’s purpose, vision, and mission. The goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-framed. Notably, resourcing goals translate as inputs and outputs to the annual budget and multi-year financial forecast. Absent this specificity, those tasked with achieving the goals will flounder.
Quarterly, the leadership team reviews goal progress and makes appropriate adjustments to ensure success, or in some cases, delaying or eliminating the goal based on mission modification, constrained resources and market conditions. This session is more than a simple monthly profit and loss review; the quarterly strategic thinking and execution planning session map out the supporting milestones, tasks, activities and resources to achieve the annual goals.
The process of strategic thinking and execution planning is a best business practice instituted annually and quarterly. There is nothing magical about the process. However, if you invest the time to master it, you’re assured of magical results. Don’t waste your precious resources chasing rabbits down rabbit holes into a wonderland full of uncertainty. Define success for your business, then strategically think, execution plan and create adventurous opportunities that profit your company. Master the five disciplines of exponential growth and glide along the visionary path you charted to achieve the ten-year big, hairy, audacious goal that wowed your team and stakeholders. It may not be Alice’s Wonderland, but it most certainly will be yours if you master the strategic thinking and execution planning process! This is how you lead, think, plan and act.
Now, let’s get after it!
Retired Col. Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. He can be reached at [email protected].