I am a believer that the right strategy ensures a successful outcome, and that the wrong — or outdated — strategy wastes valuable resources and needlessly delays the results. The trick is to select the perfect strategy — or have the ability to create it from scratch. In my view, the right strategies are what makes a person or company a success or failure today.
In the old days, hard work, commitment, effort, dedication and “following the rules” were how you succeeded. It worked, but it was very, very costly in all areas: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
But as we approach the next millennium, it’s clear that smart people are no longer willing to suffer for success — not even a little bit. The answer? Strategies. Creative strategies. Customized strategies. Clever strategies. Strategies are the keys to success, no matter what the goal.
But you have to know these strategies. A lot of them. And some that you’ve never heard of or never considered. And you have to learn how to craft, adapt and synthesize them to fit your situation or that of your company or clients.
Strategizing is a skill, and it’s a skill that you can benefit from forever in your career, business and in your personal life.
1. A strategy is *HOW* you get something accomplished, whether it’s you doing the work, someone else doing the work, or the strategy itself that does the work.
People sometimes get strategies, plans, goals, outcomes, purpose, vision and action steps confused. Briefly, here’s the difference:
A PLAN: A plan is what you develop in order to identify, organize and schedule your time, resources and energy. A plan consists of a list of resources needed, actions steps to take, a timeline of events and progress milestones.
PURPOSE: Your purpose is why you are doing what you are doing, why you’ve set a goal, why you’re going for an outcome.
VISION: Vision describes a possibility. A vision is what you see that perhaps others can’t see as well. It’s about an improvement, a betterment, sheer possibility, yet it’s not pie-in-the-sky.
OUTCOMES: An outcome is what occurs after you reach your objective or goal. The outcome includes the results, but also the benefits of those results, both tangible and intangible.
STRATEGY: A strategy is HOW something gets done, not just what you do. A strategy is your approach. It’s your positioning. It’s your smart way of reaching the goal with the least amount of wasted effort or cost. With a strategy, you aren’t always working directly on the goal itself, but rather on improving or positioning the environments, relationships, resources, flows, systems or even yourself. So strategies are very different from a plan. In fact, when you devise the right strategy, the plan becomes obvious. But without the strategy, the plan is merely a set of linear action steps (read: lots of work and often stoopid).
2. The first reason to develop a strategy is to save yourself time, money, effort.
In other words, by using a strategy, you are using your intelligence and creativity to be clever, instead of just focusing on action steps. Anyone can recommend action steps, but it’s the effective coach, professional or executive who always designs a strategy BEFORE embarking on the action steps.
3. The second reason to develop a strategy is to expand the outcomes.
The right strategy ALWAYS expands the goals and the outcomes. ALWAYS. Think of Amazon.com. Their original goal was to be the largest seller of books and their strategy to achieve that goal was to use the Internet as their storefront. But the strategy of using the Internet has proven so brilliant, it has expanded their goals, so now Amazon.com offers music, videos, gifts, software and who knows what else! Their strategy became ‘even more important’ than their original goal (more on this idea below).
4. Every goal, then, deserves a clever strategy.
Goal-setting, without an accompanying strategy, is fairly impotent and usually expensive. Sure you can accomplish goals without having a strategy, but why not use the power of strategy to help you reach the goal more easily? Why not use your mind, wisdom and creativity to make life occur more easily for you? Why slog through life?
5. There are many viable strategies available for virtually every situation.
Here’s a brief list of the types of things that people and companies want to focus on:
- Personal Development
- Professional Development
- Personal Financial Success
- Lifestyle Improvement
- Business Marketing
- Business Performance
- Customer Relationship Improvement
Did you know there are at least a dozen distinct strategies to help a person reach goals in EACH of these areas?
Let’s take the Personal Development area for a moment. To help a client (or yourself) develop personally, you can use any number of strategies. You can use the Integrity Strategy, the Personal Foundation Strategy, the Attraction Strategy, the Personal Evolution Strategy, the Spiritual Strategy, the Healing Strategy, the Extreme Self Care Strategy, the Integration Strategy, the Evolution Strategy, the Beliefs Strategy, the Bodywork Strategy, the Acceptance/Detachment Strategy, the SuperReserve Strategy, the Overrespond Strategy, the Awareness Strategy, and the Self-Esteem Strategy.
Each of these strategies helps a person to develop themselves. Wouldn’t it be nice to know something about each one of them? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know enough to be able to play chef and craft the perfect combination of ingredients from all of them and whip up a customized strategy for a client, within minutes?
THAT’s the power of strategy, but to become a masterful strategist, you need to know the strategies themselves and how to build custom ones to fit exact needs.
6. Strategies are key to business success as well.
There is not a single business today that isn’t using a strategy of some kind to grow or manage that business. But are they using the BEST strategy? Are they using the most CURRENT strategy? Are they using a CUSTOMIZED strategy?
Let’s take one of the areas of focus listed above — Business Performance — and list a dozen strategies that could be used to help a company improve their performance. You could use the Creating a Gap Strategy, the Incentives Strategy, the Vision Strategy, the Coopetition Strategy, the Coaching Strategy, the Leverage Strategy, the Customers-As-R&D-Team Strategy, the Internet Marketing Strategy, the Automation Strategy, the Eliminate Delay Strategy, the Virtual Management Strategy, Intrapreneur Strategy, the Reinvention Strategy, and/or the Creativity-Skills Strategy. Oops, that’s 14 strategies. See how easy this is!
Some of these you are already familiar with, some of these are probably new for you. But wouldn’t it be helpful to be familar with ALL of them? Would that make you wise? Would that make you highly effective with your clients, with your company and/or in your own personal life?
7. You start the process of creating a strategy by asking yourself some questions.
“What’s the smartest, cleverest, most creative and easiest way to make X happen, without having to do it like everyone else is trying to do it? What’s a better way? What’s an unconventional way? What’s MY way?”
One of the most fascinating aspects of strategy is that the process of developing strategies is a highly creative one. True, you can use off-the-shelf strategies. But it’s also important to be able to craft and customize strategies. You do this by first learning the basic strategies for personal and business success (there are 160 of them, and counting). And THEN when you ask yourself the questions above, you’ll have enough raw material to invent something new that fits perfectly for your situation or a client’s.
8. Strategies evolve you, in addition to helping you achieve your goals faster.
In any personal or business situation, there are 3 elements: the person, the goal and the strategy. I call these the Who, the What and the How. In an earlier point, I mentioned that the strategy affects and expands the goal, using Amazon.com as the example. But did you know that a strategy can also expand who YOU are? Think about it. I bet Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) is a bigger/more expanded person since he began implementing this strategy to reach his initial goal. In some ways, the original goal expanded Jeff, meaning that he began to think bigger and got stretched as he launched Amazon.com. But as he developed his strategy of using the Internet, I say that this strategy expanded and evolved him as well.
In other words, what I am saying is that our goals and our strategies have as much to do with our personal evolution as to do with our direct efforts in that area. Or to put it another way, if you REALLY want to evolve yourself, find a goal, create a clever strategy and watch the evolution occur. Strategies are a catalyst for personal evolution. It sure beats willpower.
9. Strategies let you achieve in the middle of chaos.
There’s a lot that’s been said about ‘change’ and ‘change management’ during the past 10 years. And with the development of the Internet, the rate of this change is changing. In fact, the rate of time is also changing, given an Internet Year is about 3 months, not 12 months. And with the millennium approaching, we are all re-evaluating what it is that we really want and how we’re going to achieve it. Like fast.
I think it’s fair to say that we’re moving from a rational world (predictable, logical) to an irrational world (unpredictable, illogical). If this progression is true, then it means that chaos had better become our friend — and fast — instead of us trying to control or limit the chaos (how 80s!). But how do we, as humans, ‘hold’ chaos, given it brings up fear and stimulates us in ways we cannot predict?
The answer that I’ve found for myself is to become an expert on strategies. I find that when I focus on strategies, I can handle — and actually enjoy — chaos. I DON’T NEED TO KNOW THE OUTCOME. After all, as chaos increases, outcomes become less and less predictible. More about this in my final point, #10.
10. It is as important to be an expert in strategies as it is to be dedicated to results.
Earlier in this Top Ten list, you may remember that I said that the right strategy will expand the goal in very cool ways? I used Amazon.com as my example. Now, I have nothing against goal setting and goal achievement — that makes the world go ’round. But I feel that it’s as important to learn the skills of strategy design as it is to learn how to deliver results. Why? Because if you only deliver results, it means that you’re using older strategies, not inventing newer ones. It means that you’re good at running a Barnes and Noble Store, but ignorant that the majority of books will soon be purchased online. (Nothing against Barnes and Noble — they are great and they have barnesandnoble.com)
Put it another way. If I was your coach, I could help you reach your goals, using coaching and communication skills, and you could benefit from my experience of having helped a hundred other people reach that same type of goal. But I’d just be giving you ‘fish’ instead of teaching you how to fish. So part of what I do with my clients is that I share strategies with them, not just action steps. And I teach my clients how to strategize, so that they can devise their own strategies, far after they’ve stopped coaching with me.
Teaching a client how to strategize is the ultimate in empowerment. You are giving them the tools to empower themselves. And that’s an ‘annuity of value’ that the client will benefit from for a lifetime.