The short answer? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No.
Limitations can be a good thing. They can provide a healthy structure that improves responsiveness to change.
We operate in a world of seemly endless opportunities. On a personal level, I am bombarded with opportunities daily that come through my inbox, from my social media channels and of course from conversations with clients, colleagues, and friends. I am sure this is true for you too. It can be overwhelming. This barrage takes place weekly for every commercial enterprise and non-profit too. I am confident that once a month at any given leadership team meeting there is at least one compelling opportunity to discuss.
The transactional exploration for an opportunity center around questions of:
- Could we benefit from this?
- Can we flex to respond to it?
- Will the pay-off be worth it?
All good questions, but if the answers are yes, will pursuing the opportunity advance or slow the firm’s progress towards its longer-term goals?
When emerging ideas or opportunities are presented to a team with a strong strategic direction, these transactional questions are deferred until their strategic framework is applied. To some, this discipline may seem limiting. To others, adept at using their strategic plan for decision-making is it shrewd.
The strategic exploration of an opportunity starts with the question of is this OUR opportunity:
- Is this in alignment with our vision/values and mission?
- Yes, we should explore if this could fit into our plans.
- No, a good idea, but not for us.
If there is alignment with the vision and mission, the leadership team should explore if it is a NOW, LATER or NEVER fit. This is where a longer debate takes place. The strategic questions at this stage are:
- Will it keep us on track with our strategic plan or will it take us off course?
- If we pass will be set up a new or more challenging competitive issue?
- If we pass will we miss an innovation or significant development that will impact our goals later?
- What would we have to change or sacrifice to embrace this? What impact will embracing it have on our other priorities? Is the cost too high?
- Is there another way to achieve this yield/benefit within our current plans? Is there a tweak we can make in the short-term that will be the least disruptive and get us close to the same benefit?
- Can we shift to take advantage of it in time? Is there a window that we can take advantage of or have we missed it?
- What is the real pay-off? What are the obvious and less obvious “costs” and “benefits”?
Finally, if the decision is to embrace this emerging opportunity do not forget to integrate it into your plan and commitments. The process of weaving the emerging with the deliberate can be the most difficult step, yet it is vital that leadership is viewed as smart and strategic, vision-driven and market- responsive. Take the time to think carefully about how to make a change make sense to your internal stakeholders.
This process of stepping back and asking: Is it our opportunity? If so, it is a now or a later opportunity? And finally, how should be best integrate this with our other goals and commitments? Can feel limiting to leaders unaccustomed to having a strategic framework to use in decision-making.
When attention is transactional, decision-making is transactional. When leadership teams ignore or don’t have a strategic plan the debate on emerging opportunities narrows to an evaluation of could we do it and could we get a pay-off rather than is this the right thing for us to focus on now and will it provide a strategic advantage that will improve our strategic plan.
A well-thought-out long-range plan is a powerful management tool. It provides clarity and increases confidence in decision-making which in turn increases alignment and productivity. High performing teams thrive with a strong plan and clear goals. Does your team need a strong strategic framework to improve how it explores and responds to opportunities?