I recently received a survey from my son’s school principal. There was a brief email asking everyone to complete a survey: a list of 20 plus questions. I started reading through the questions, and I immediately thought, what this is for? How is this going to be used? Maybe I should ask before responding? I did not complete the survey; I moved on to things I understood more clearly.
When I got a reminder to complete the survey, I wondered how many other stopped before completing the survey. How many others wanted context?
I see this happen all the time as great ideas take flight during the implementation plan phase. Folks like to jump in and get into their great ideas, but they do not always tie these ideas to the context provided by the strategic plan. Providing strategic context is a core discipline of strong strategic management.
When organizations lack strategic management practices, leaders forget to set the context in our effort to engage others in action. When I work with teams to implement the strategic plan, I am often the wet blanket initially slowing the process down to ask context setting questions. However, just like the turtle and the hare, sometimes going slow is the way to go faster.
Here are a few simple questions you can pose the next time you feel greater context is needed:
- Why are we doing this? What do we hope to achieve?
- How are we going to use this to move ahead?
- Where do we ultimately want to be and does this get us closer than any other option?
- Are we sure this the best way to do this?
Just as a fast bunny that can't stop hopping around, those in your group may be initially frustrated by your questions. If you pose contextual questions and the answers come quickly, then you are ready to go. If the answers do not come quickly or there is a great inconsistency in the response, you need to slow it way down. It is time to pull out your strategic plan and explore how to align the ideas with its goals.
You may hear groans from the hop-happy bunnies, but it is wiser to take the turtle’s pace and get your focus aligned with your strategic objectives before proceeding. I promise you a few more steps in thinking through broader context before you leap will pay off with greater momentum than you have ever imagined.
Always remember, go slow to go fast.
How well prepared is your team to lead strategically?