How do you know if you're on the right track? You have to identify milestones and chart your progress so you know when and if you need to re-evaluate.
- How do you know if your strategy is on the right track? You developed it with the best of intentions, taking into account all the facts you had at the time. But circumstances change and evolve. It's possible that your strategy should, too. How do you know? Here's a three step system you can put in place to measure your progress and keep yourself moving forward. First, identify your assumptions. You can't really know if your strategy is working if you're murky on what success should look like.
Yes, you want the new product to be a hit, but what does that mean? How many units sold? By when? How many mentions in the press or new wholesale partners? It's only when you identify and write down your assumptions up front, that you're able to realistically discern how you're doing, and know whether it's time to change your approach. Second, evaluate your progress at regular intervals. It's common in business life to create annual plans. The research by Rita McGrath of Columbia University shows that it's actually not such a useful habit anymore in these fast-moving times.
Instead, she discovered that the most successful companies actually create quarterly plans instead, so they're able to be more nimble in adapting to a changed environment. Similarly, whether we're talking about your business strategy or a strategy for your career, it's useful to build in regular intervals where you evaluate progress against your assumptions. It could be quarterly, it could be when you hit certain predetermined milestones, like 10,000 units sold or your first million in revenue, or both. The key is identifying in advance when and how you're going to track your progress, so it doesn't get forgotten or neglected once you're in the midst of implementation, which can get chaotic and messy, at times.
You create the order and the structure up front. Finally, document your processes. We're not just doing strategy for strategy's sake. We're engaged in strategic thinking, because we want to get better at making smart decisions. We want to learn and improve over time. But that's not going to happen by itself. You don't get to be a better basketball player by making a thousand lousy free throws. You get to be a better basketball player by practicing a thousand times and studying, in detail, what you did wrong and how to improve it.
It's deliberate practice that makes a difference according to the well-known researcher, Anders Ericsson of 10,000 hours fame. Likewise, we can learn to make better decisions and develop sharper strategies if we review our assumptions, check them against those milestones, and see what we got right and wrong. That enables us to see where we're overconfident, and where we've historically had blind spots. The more self-reflection we can manage when it comes to strategic thinking, the better off we'll be.
- Embracing the strategic mindset
- Making time
- Learning from the past
- Getting details right
- Strategic thinking with a team
- Measuring success