One common mistake in any type of long-term venture is to mix your strategic and operational agenda. We need to set time aside to develop and sustain our strategic goals and plans, but then we are done and need to focus on action. If you are hesitant or unclear of your direction this will make solving operational issues more challenging. All of us has a preference if we like to make long-term plans and look at the big picture or if we are more action oriented, eager to put our thoughts into activities. The result when running your own business can be either too much long-term planning or ad hoc actions that have no common direction. There is a need for a very different mindset when working with strategic planning compared to working on operational tasks. In large organizations, these things are done by different people, but in a small organization, you need to be very specific in which mode you are in. Is it strategic work you are doing, thinking long-term and more visional or is it operational with an action-oriented problem-solving focus? One way to make sure you spend sufficient time and effort on both are to identify what is a strategic decision and what is operational.
Go through your planned activities and think about if they are based on a strategic decision or not. Is there strategic thinking to be done to solve this properly or not. Here is an example of a small e-business run from home.
|Planned activity||Strategic Component||Need for strategic decision||Strategic/Operational|
|Delivery service always late – need to find a new partner||My long-term need for delivery service||Will I continue to grow my need for delivery services or do I need a short-term fix before starting to drop-ship?||Strategic|
|My computer is not working properly and needs an update||This is an issue I need to solve today and I already decided to get a new laptop in one year.||No||Operational|
|Answer the questions from my clients about my products||There could be questions about future products but you can still answer what you know today||No (but you’ll probably get ideas for strategic choices to be made)||Operational|
|Investigate new products that could be interesting||What is your strategic view on adding/changing your product offering?||What kind of R&D activities are in focus for you right now?||Strategic|
|Send products to clients but need to get more wrapping material||Should you brand your wrapping more or make it look more exclusive?||No, you do not make that decision today if you are at a standstill because of this. But if you are unsure of the right kind of branding that could be a topic for you to think about later.||Operational|
Then you gather strategic topics together and set aside time for strategic decision making when you go through all of these. Make sure to use your strategic decisions and not reassess them every time they come up. This is a common time-consuming behavior in many organizations, large and small, to ignore strategic decisions and guidelines.
Many entrepreneurs spend far too much time on strategic issues, instead of getting down to action.
Others spend too much time doing insignificant tasks not moving them in their strategic direction. To avoid this time-consuming behavior you can ask yourself these three questions when starting a task:
- Is there a strategic component to this task?
- Have I/we already made a strategic decision on this?
Use the decision and go to action!
Put the strategic question on the agenda for your next strategic session.
In some new ventures, the number of strategic decisions to be made are truly daunting in the beginning. Do not fear! This will change over time if you handle this in the right way. If you are overwhelmed with strategic decisions make sure your strategic sessions are frequent and document every decision well so you don’t have to revisit the question.
After a while, you will notice that you have answers to most strategic questions and your sessions can be further apart.
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