Flexible strategy, or, how to be happy driving in traffic (really)

We have to get used to making strategic adjustments more frequently. The world moves faster. We absolutely have to commit to our strategy – especially if we have to invest in it – but we also have to keep an eye on our environment as we proceed, and not close ourself off to new ideas.

It’s like driving. Often organizations keep the habits of someone who learned to drive on the wide open prairies, or a spacious suburb – when the city has caught up with them. Suddenly it’s roaring traffic and bicycles and pedestrians darting out between parked cars and delivery trucks and taxis, and everyone is trying to beat the light. It’s competitive, to be sure – there are only so many parking spots – but it’s also collaborative – as someone who drives on busy city streets a lot, I’m quite sure that kindness in drivers does a lot to get everyone home safely, and even faster.

So we keep our eyes open, we shoulder-check to cover our blind spots (or eliminate them). We have to do it because we don’t know what’s coming up behind, or alongside. We can’t keep our eyes only on the dashboard (not that I don’t love a good dashboard). We’ll get clobbered.

But we also don’t want to be the person who accumulates honking, aggravated drivers behind us, because we can’t find a way to edge into the intersection. Sometimes we have to just get on with things. As a client said to me recently, we have to own the decisions we’ve made and move forward from there.

So how do we keep moving, in an increasingly cacophonous environment, neither paralyzed by indecision, nor catapulting forward with no regard to what we might run into? Some thoughts:

  • Own your decisions. Have confidence in your decision-making. Invest in making quality decisions. Be clear about the decision-making moment, and then get on with it.
  • Keep listening. Prop open your informational channels. Take a lot of things under advisement, even if – or perhaps especially if – they are threatening to your strategic choices.
  • Schedule rethinking. That’s often an annual check-in, but can be on whatever timeline makes sense for you. If things are moving particularly quickly in your sector, accelerate this process, allocate more resources, and be prepared to act more quickly.
  • Be prepared for a detour. If something happens which threatens your progress, time to think about alternatives. No point in pretending the route you thought was going to work isn’t blocked to you.

As things get more complex and feedback loops get tighter, we’ll all need to get better at adjusting – and recognizing when mere adjusting isn’t enough. 

If you’d like to discuss how we can help set, revisit, or evaluate strategies, please get in touch.

Image of Dhaka traffic, by nist6SS via flickr, used under Creative Commons. 

Contact us at meredith@meredithlow.com or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


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