Stop Drifting - Three Steps to Take Now to Navigate Your Business Through Turbulent Times
In fair weather and good markets, sometimes just drifting through the marketplace produces good results like new opportunities, revenue growth and profits. You don't need me to tell you that in these times if you are not navigating your business through rigorous strategic planning - you are likely to crash on the rocks. Here are key elements of leading your business, organization or career through these rough waters:
1. Develop and communicate your vision. As a leader, your destination is your vision- your direction and focus. It must be grounded in what you are trying to achieve and the most important concerns you need to take care of both personally and from a business perspective. You must communicate your vision and keep it very visible in front of you and your team, or in busy, trying, crazy times we live in...you will lose sight of it. Vision is what motivates us and mobilizes us into effective action. Navigating is making your everyday decisions with your vision in mind. Can you describe your vision in 2 minutes in a clear and compelling way? if not, this is where you need to start.
2. Identify the key internal and external factors that have an important affect on reaching your destination. You must make assessments about your situation to make good decisions about which course to take. SWOT is an easy framework to use to capture and consider key internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats.) Of all the strategic planning practices, SWOT requires the most outside perspective. As a business leader, it is impossible to see and interpret everything that is going on, and our psychology can get in the way of making well grounded assessments. Use employees, colleagues, customers, peers and coaches to thoroughly lay out your SWOT. Think of it as the chart for your navigation- a clear document which starts to point out the possible routes you could take given your situation and the hazards to be avoided. A thorough SWOT demands a rich understanding of employee competencies, your market, economics, technology, legislation and competition. By evaluating your SWOT you determine how to best utilize your assets, avoid threats, and identify the areas where you can build unique competitive advantage for the future.
3. Make a Plan, AND a Plan B! We all know how to plan, I think this just comes down to how much rigor we are willing to put into the practice. One of my TAB colleagues often notes that many of us put more time into planning our vacations than planning for our businesses:) Yes, planning takes time and energy on the front end. Having worked with hundreds of different business leaders in different situations, I know that it also pays off in the end with well coordinated, successful and effective action. A plan includes the who, what, where, why and how of navigating to your destination. Most importantly, it requires insights into the interim situations that are critical to achieving any goal. Business is complex and multi-faceted. Executing the strategies that gain us competitive advantage requires more than simple action. Navigating our course requires a bit of reverse engineering - determining the goals along the way that serve as a launching point for the next goal.
Over the past year it has also become clear that one plan is not enough. Business leaders must have a plan for the most likely scenario, and a backup plan as well. Your "Plan B" must also be well thought out and include a path to another satisfactory destination (even if it's not preferred.)
These three steps will get you on your way. I find once I help a business leader become a navigator using these steps, a new sense of control, peace, resolve and optimism follows. There is still work to do to make it happen...but I'll leave that for a future blog!