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Framing the Future of Your Organization

It felt like we were anthropologists studying a foreign culture.

After countless interactions with team members, observing leadership behaviors, and sorting through worker feedback, we were finally getting a glimpse of the culture of the organization with which our team was working. Among other things, the culture of this organization could be described as fast-moving problem solvers. The nature of this expanding organization required leaders and team members to move at a rapid pace and solve problems on the go.

As effective as this organization has been, I have often wondered at what point the rapid paced problem-solving efforts may have a diminishing effect on the sustainability of the organization’s long-term success.

In our experience, leaders tend to have a bias for action and movement.

Consequently, some leaders balk at the thought of stopping long enough to construct a solid strategic plan for their organization. As a result, questions of organizational effectiveness and mission accomplishment linger. We have seen the benefit of strategic planning. When I think about our work with organizations who are investing in a strategic plan, this quote comes to mind:

“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution” – Anonymous

This quote has been attributed to Albert Einstein as well as an unknown professor from Yale. Regardless of who coined this phrase, the quote offers a powerful challenge for leaders. Spending adequate time accurately defining a problem (or an unknown future) may result in swifter solutions.

No leader can accurately predict what the future holds for their organization.

Yet, a lack of strategic planning guarantees an inability to influence future outcomes. A solid strategic plan enables leaders to shape and align organizational efforts in the same direction. An important question to consider is this: what would it look like to have my organization’s team members, leaders and resources all channeled in the same direction toward a clear and inspirational future? Effective strategic planning can help an organization answer this question.

For leaders considering whether or not their organization needs a strategic plan, the following assessment questions may get the thought process started:

  1. Can you and your team clearly articulate the reason your organization exists?
  2. Can you and your team clearly articulate a set of core values and operating principles by which you operate?
  3. Can you and your team clearly articulate an envisioned future for the organization?
  4. Can you and your team clearly articulate organizational objectives, goals, strategies, and measures to realize your future?
  5. Can you and your team clearly articulate the way in which you deliver on your plan?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, a strategic plan may be a necessary step for you to consider.

If you had one hour to save your business, how many minutes would you spend defining the problem?

In Milestone Leadership’s strategic planning work with organizations, we help leaders establish Mission Clarity as an essential foundation for effective leadership. Also, we help leaders develop clearly articulated Values. Our values-based strategic planning process begins with creating these two foundational elements. Once those are in place, we are able to work together to create a Vision to propel the organization forward over the next three to five years.

With strategic blueprints and a solid foundation, your business could be unstoppable.

Erik Dees is a Partner with Milestone Leadership and a regular contributor to Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. He can be reached by phone at (319) 504-3083 or edees@milestoneleadership.com.

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