• Strategic Non-Planning: Advice for the Super-Busy Leader

    19 November 2010
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    I’ll keep this short because I know you don’t have much time. Heck, let’s be honest – I’ll keep this short because neither of us have much time!

    I got an email from a colleague today that I see occasionally. The subject line said, “Way too busy.” The message went something like “I’dreallyliketoknowwhatyou’redoingbutI’mtoobusysoIhopewecatchupsoon.” I knew it was going to say that before I even looked because I’d been meaning to send a similar message to her

    Over the last few years, we’ve gone from complicated scheduling (back before the financial meltdown), to busy-thank-goodness (this summer), to a frenetic, almost-insane busy-ness here in the fourth quarter of 2010. 

    For someone who works on strategic planning, this is actually a pretty interesting and fun environment. Long strategy retreats are rewarding. But today, there’s a lot more need to develop a vision with a leadership team in an hour

    Now that’s a real challenge. 

    I’m hearing from all my clients that they are very, very busy. And then they ask me, in a somewhat worried tone, what they should do about those strategic goals we identified earlier in the year. I usually hear them ask that with the same somewhat desperate tone that I read in my friend’s email – I want to do it, and I occasionally find myself remembering that I should do it, but I just don’t have the time to actually do it. 

    I suspect you’re thinking the same thing, so let me tell you my advice to them… 

    Don’t worry about those goals. 

    This advice is invariably greeted with a sigh of relief…because we both knew that they couldn’t have done anything on strategic goals even if they’d wanted to. 

    So, instead of using up your emotional energy feeling bad, just release those goals. Stay focused on executing. Do that really well. Get your feet back under you. 

    And then, at some point, come back to your goals, and figure out which one you want to attack first. 

    Just remember that there are two parts to intentionally ignoring your strategy: First, make sure you really release yourself from any guilt about it. Second, pick a date when you’ll make yourself think about it again. For example, the end of the year might be a good timeframe now. At that time, you may decide that you still can’t do anything strategic – but it’ll be an active decision, rather than a passive one. 

    (An important exception: If you have no strategy – no goals that you’re ignoring – then some strategic planning will probably save you time and make your life easier. If that’s you, you’ll be amazed at what some big-picture strategic clarity does for your daily to-do list). 

    Management is most effective when it is grounded in the truth, in the reality that people face every day. 

    And today, you may well need strategic non-planning – a strategic decision not to plan, so that you can keep your sanity, your health, your customers and your business. 

    It’s OK. We’ll get back to strategy in a few weeks.

    Read more posts like this on Crain’s Detroit Business.

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