What allows elite teams in football to be great while other teams struggle for decades? Why do some companies grow and flourish, while others die off? How do you go about readying yourself for your career? How do you afford vacations or to retire one day? In one word: strategy. But what exactly is a strategy? You might say a strategy is what one team uses to beat another team in a sport. Or that strategy is what a commanding general uses in war to outmaneuver and defeat his enemy. Let’s look at the definition of strategy as defined by Google before we travel any further.

Strategy - "A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim."

Now, let’s take a look at each part of this definition to see how it applies to business, projects, and more.

“A Plan of Action…”

This seems pretty straightforward, right? You process a set of actions ahead of time and do them. Simple. Easy. Everyone can do it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

  • Multiple Perspectives

A good plan is developed by a diverse group of people with multiple perspectives.  Allowing one person or a group of similar minded people to take control of a plan can make it one sided. Also, consider involving end users in your planning sessions. Create a platform where you encourage employee feedback.  Often, direct input from the employees can help avoid major operational issues.

  • Forest and Trees

A  good plan accounts for the details but does not get lost in them. For example, it does not make sense to spend time detailing the process of a key change that will occur much later in your project timeline. You want to consider that process during the meeting but ensure it does not become a time trap. Details such as this should be accounted for by the right people at the right time.

  • A Plan without Action is Just a Dream

All the planning in the world is nothing without action.  Creating the right plan is the first step, but executing the plan is what makes the project a success.  The project managers should have the ability to plan and take action. Learning ways to communicate a message to a diverse group of people is vital. How would you approach asking a contractor to proceed with a minor task? What about asking an executive to approve a budget? While both move your project forward, they need a different style, tempo, and tone. You should adjust your communication based on the target audience.

“…Or Policy Designed”

When I think of a policy, my mind goes to big box retail stores. Sometimes, the word policy evokes negative experiences. “No, you can’t return that sir. It’s against our return policy.” While policies like this are seen in a negative light, a well-designed policy can be helpful when creating a strategy. The best way to design a policy is to leverage standard practices as a baseline.

Standard practices allow you to use predetermined processes to create a path for your project.  Much like planning, these standards allow you to keep your team focused and on track. When an employee has a question about a process, standard practices can be the perfect guide.  When you communicate the standard practices to your team in advance, your standards can lead to a successful outcome.

“…To Achieve a Major or Overall Aim”

To achieve a major aim, you have a goal in mind.

  • Off Target

One of the biggest mistakes made by project managers is losing sight of what they showed up for. If you begin a company that makes pizza boxes, and you end up making pizza, you have lost sight of what you came here to do. The logistics of going from a cardboard box manufacturer to a restaurant are complicated and costly.

  • Scope Creep

Scope creep, as it is often called, is the natural enemy of your original goal. Your project can get derailed by adding new tasks that might seem helpful or productive at the time. In reality, those new tasks can delay progress or be counterproductive to your end goal. To prevent losing focus, you should incorporate regular discussions around direction and goals.

A well-prepared plan leveraging standard practices will allow you to focus on your end goals. Using strategy as your guide you can excel where others might fail.

David Rice

Senior IT Consultant | AfidenceIT

A good plan accounts for the details but does not get lost in them.
— Dave Rice