A strategy that's good in theory isn't much help in the real world. You have to realistically understand your assets, your allies, and the external constraints you face in order to have your strategic thinking be meaningful.
- A strategy that's good in theory isn't much help in the real world. You want your strategic thinking to be relevant and useful, and actually something you can use. That means you can't just figure out what would work best in an ideal world. You need to apply your strategy to this world that we live in. Here's how to do it. First, take some time to map out your assets and allies. What skills or knowledge, or experience do you possess that can help you? If your big focus is expansion into the Latin American market, speaking Spanish is going to be a huge help, along with the rotation you did in the Buenos Aires office.
And perhaps your knowledge of social media, if that's going to be a key component of the corporate strategy there. And what relationships, which allies can you tap? Maybe it's your boss, who knows you want to take a leading role in the expansion and is willing to put you forward. Maybe it's the head of communications who knows how skilled you are with social media, and wants to make sure someone knowledgeable has a role in the new initiative. Maybe it's a friend from college, who's now a corporate leader in Chile and can give you on the ground intel about business conditions in the country.
Taking note of the assets and allies you possess helps you get clear on how you can leverage them to make things happen. Next, think about what constraints you'll face. Unfortunately, you'll rarely face a 100% positive situation when it comes to implementing your strategy. In addition to assets and allies, you'll also likely have negative factors at work. These are your constraints. Before you come up with a plan that's just a little too rosy, you want to give yourself a reality check and take note of the obstacles you might face.
For instance, it could be people. Maybe the VP of operations wants to install his own guy in Latin America and therefore, block you. It could be structural. Maybe you work in a vertical that's never historically been a path to international careers. And at least at this point the pathways are stacked against you. Or it could be cultural. Maybe your company values experience and longevity more than anything else. So it's hard to get your ideas heard when you've only been there a couple of years. Taking note of the constraints you face helps you understand how you can begin to overcome or work around them.
Finally, break your strategy down into specific steps. If you really want to accomplish something make sure you take the time to develop specific goals. And identify the tactics you're going to use to get there. For instance, in this example, your strategy is to become a leader in your company's Latin American expansion efforts. Your goal might be to land a specific leadership role in the team. And your tactics might be, over the next six months, understanding who makes the hiring decisions. And making sure your allies recommend you to that person.
You can also refresh your Spanish, so it's sharp. And spend your own time researching the Latin American market, through in depth reading, informational interviews and conversations. So your knowledgeable and can hit the ground running. Thinking strategically is important but only if it's realistic and attainable. That's why you have to get the details right.
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- Embracing the strategic mindset
- Making time
- Learning from the past
- Getting details right
- Strategic thinking with a team
- Measuring success