“You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.” – Leon Trotsky
It goes without saying that we live in a world of rapid, major, sometimes overwhelming change. Very few things seem to stay the same from one year to the next, and some things seem to change almost daily. Along with all the change comes uncertainty.
When I visit with leaders, too many of them say something to the effect of “What’s the point of planning or being strategic when we can’t know the future?” The put off planning, or they put off thinking about strategy for another time, or just skip it altogether.
Part of that misguided thinking stems from the fact that people think developing strategy is about looking into some kind of crystal ball, seeing the future clearly, and then acting on whatever obvious conclusions you draw from that future. In other words, we know what the future will be and so we can act on it. Which is, of course, completely wrong.
Strategy isn’t about certainty. It’s about dealing with uncertainty. Strategy is about best guessing what the future holds, acting on that best guess, and then adapting to what actually happens. It’s a continual process of making the best choices you can and then responding to what comes next.
So why bother planning and strategizing if you’re just going to respond to reality anyway? Why not just wait & see what happens? The answer is that if you don’t have a strategy, how do you know what to watch for? For example, if your strategy involves beating your competitors on price, then you can measure/monitor what it takes to win in that space and adjust as necessary.
At its core, strategy is about focus. Literally dozens of things will happen that we don’t expect. We can’t react to all of them, nor should we. Without some kind of strategy, how do we know which ones are worth our energy and which ones aren’t? How can we respond quickly when we are trying to respond to ten things at once?
Make the time to be strategic. Think about your future. Make your best guesses and then be agile. You’re failing as a leader if you don’t.