Avoiding Strategic Pitfalls

In the most recent post in my blog series on adaptive capacity, I wrote about the importance of engaging in strategic thinking on an organizational level. If purpose is the soul of your organization, strategy is its brains.

But coming up with a new strategy is a slow, deliberate and often painful process. Even if you think you have a firm handle on the process of creating a strategy, it’s easy to fall into the trap of avoidance. Eichholz identifies several common avoidance mechanisms that can derail any attempt at true strategic thinking. They include:

  • Replacing strategic thinking with budgeting
  • Confusing strategic thinking with strategic planning, i.e. coming up with an action plan before the hard work of reflection has taken place
  • Hiring consultants or bringing in expert speakers without taking the time to discuss their insights internally
  • Asking for employee feedback without any plan or mechanism for implementing their suggestions
  • Only experimenting when the strategies in question pose little or no risk to the organization

As you probably already know, coming up with new strategies can be frightening because they threaten to disrupt the equilibrium of the organization. However, as with all things in life, with little risk comes little reward. Replacing strategic thinking with avoidance mechanisms will never result in meaningful change and will limit your organization’s ability to adapt.

So how can you ensure that your team doesn’t lose its way?

One thing you can do is set clear expectations and goals from the outset and ensure that you are fostering an open dialogue. Make it clear to everyone on your team that their insights are valuable and that not every idea is expected to succeed. Instead of trying to achieve everything in one meeting, have a series of discussions in which you break your goals down into more easily achievable tasks. Finally, listen to what your employees tell you, even if some ideas or suggestions rub you the wrong way or seem like they’re coming out of left field. Reacting negatively to new ideas will only serve to set your team back into avoidance mode.

Are you trying to develop a new strategy for your organization, or some aspect of it? I’d love to discuss it with you. You can reach me via my website, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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